Pom is considered to be the national dish of Suriname. It is typically reserved for special occasions as it has a large amount of chicken in the dish which is a luxury. There is a saying “without pom, there is no birthday”. I think that pretty much sums up how much pom is beloved in Suriname.
Pom is actually short for the root vegetable pomtajer, that is used as the topping. It is believed that this recipe originated from the Jewish immigrants who after the Spanish Inquisition were forced out of Portugal and Spain. They owned about a quarter of the plantations back in 1730. The Jews were known to clean chicken with citrus juice, and they also were known to cook in ovens. They likely made this dish for the sabbath. One problem is that potatoes were not available in Suriname, so the Afro-surinamese servants recommended the use of the indigenous pomtajer for the grated topping.
The dish has evolved over the years with all of the immigrants of Suriname contributing to its flavors. As such, there are numerous ways of making pom. The Chinese contributed ginger and lychee, the Indians -Piccalilli, the creoles – salted beef and the Javanese- soy sauce. This is a more traditional recipe for pom and yes, you can use potatoes if you can’t find the elusive pomtajer at your local market, which is what I did. You could also use taro root, malanga or cassava root as alternatives as well.
The dish has many ingredients and I thought some to be strange combinations but the result was really delicious. I loved the citrus notes to the dish as well as the crunchy topping. As many Surinamese left Suriname and emigrated to the Netherlands. Pom is also very popular there as well. The Dutch like to eat a slice of left over pom between two pieces of bread like a sandwich. If you have any leftovers you should try it.
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Pom (Chicken and Root Vegetable Casserole)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 2 small onions diced
- 1 lb. skinless boneless chicken breasts cut into 2-inch chunks
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon white pepper ground
- 2 cups tomatoes chopped
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 2 oranges juice and zest of
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon allspice ground
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg ground
- 1/4 cup piccalilli or spicy relish
- 2 tablespoons sambal oelek or to taste
- 1 cup flat-leaf parsley chopped
Grated Potato or Pomtajer Topping
- 1 pound russet potatoes peeled and grated
- 1 white onion peeled and grated
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon paprika powder
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
Cook Onions and Chicken
- Take the juice of one orange, a dash of salt and your chicken pieces into a mixing bowl. Massage the salt and citrus juice into the chicken, then let sit for several minutes while you tend to your onions
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large wok or saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Add in your onions and stir.
- Cook the onions for 5-6 minutes as they turn translucent, then take a slotted spatula to remove them. Set aside
- Drain the orange juice from the mixing bowl of chicken, then add your chicken into the same wok/saucepan with two more tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper
- Sear your chicken for 2-3 minutes each side as the outside starts to brown.
Prepare Your Pom Filling
- As the chicken browns, add back in the onions as well as the chopped tomatoes, chicken stock and tomato purée. Stir well.
- Next, add in the coconut milk, orange juice, piccalilli (or relish), sambal, sugar, allspice and nutmeg into the pan. Stir well.
- Add in some freshly chopped parsley and take the pan off of direct heat. Stir, then transfer the entire mixture into a nonstick (or oiled) casserole dish.
Make and Layer Pom Crust
- Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Next, begin grating the peeled potatoes and onion into a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
- Add in eggs, paprika powder, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Feel free to use your hands.
- Once the potatoes are well mixed and coated in eggs and spices, carefully spread the grated mixture over top of your casserole dish. You want to cover every possible square inch of surface area so that the chicken is encapsulated in the casserole dish.
- Place your pom in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until your potato crust is golden brown and has a nice crunch to it.
- Serve pom with some stir fried green beans or just enjoy it on its own.