Malagasy Cuisine - Contemporary Cuisine - Accompaniment (laoka)

Accompaniment (laoka)

Two common laokas: voanjobory sy henakisoa (Bambara groundnut cooked with pork, left) and ravimbomanga sy patsamena (potato leaves stewed with dried shrimp, right).

The accompaniment served with rice is called laoka in the highlands dialect, the official version of the Malagasy language. Laoka are most often served in some kind of sauce: in the highlands, this sauce is generally tomato-based, while in coastal areas coconut milk is often added during cooking. In the arid southern and western interior where herding zebu is traditional, fresh or curdled zebu milk is often incorporated into vegetable dishes. Laoka are diverse and may include such ingredients as Bambara groundnuts with pork, beef or fish; trondro gasy, (, various freshwater fish); shredded cassava leaves with peanuts, beef or pork; henan'omby (, beef) or akoho (, chicken) sauteed with ginger and garlic or simmered in its own juices (a preparation called ritra ); various types of seafood, which are more readily available along the coasts or in large urban centers; and many more. A variety of local greens such as anamamy (, Morelle greens), anamafaitra (, Martin greens) and particularly anamalao (, paracress)—distinguished by the mildly analgesic effect the boiled leaves and flowers produce—are commonly sold alongside anandrano (, watercress) and anatsonga (, bok choy). In the arid south and west, such as among the Bara or Tandroy peoples, staples include sweet potato, yams, taro root and especially cassava, millet and maize, generally boiled in water and occasionally served in whole milk or flavored with crushed peanuts.

Garlic, onions, ginger, tomatoes, mild curry, and salt are the most common ingredients used to flavor dishes, and in coastal areas other ingredients such as coconut milk, vanilla, cloves or turmeric may also be used. A variety of condiments are served on the side and mixed into the rice or laoka according to each individual's taste rather than mixing them in as the food is being cooked. The most common and basic condiment, sakay, is a spicy condiment made from red or green chili pepper. Indian-style condiments made of pickled mango, lemon, and other fruits (known as achards or lasary ), are a coastal specialty; in the highlands, lasary often refers to a salad of green beans, cabbage, carrots and onion in a vinaigrette sauce, popular as a side dish or as the filling of a baguette sandwich.

Ro (, a broth) may be served as the main laoka or in addition to it to flavor and moisten the rice. Ro-mangazafy is a rich and flavorful broth made with beef, tomato and garlic that often accompanies a dry laoka. By contrast, Romatsatso is a light and relatively flavorless broth made with onion, tomato and anamamy greens served with meat or fatty poultry. Ron-akoho, a broth made with chicken and ginger, is a home remedy for the common cold, while rompatsa —a broth made with tiny dried shrimp and beef, to which potato leaves and potato are often added—is traditionally eaten by new mothers to support lactation. The national dish is the broth called romazava, which in its simplest form is made of beef with anamalao and anantsonga or anamamy, although ingredients such as tomato, onion and ginger are commonly added to create more complex and flavorful versions. Romazava is distinguished by its inclusion of anamalao flowers, which produce a mild analgesic effect when the broth is consumed.

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