I have a coffee shop in my village.
The decor is rustic–hipster chic. It’s full of wooden stools and green plants and it serves the best rice cakes in the world. Yes, in the whole world. It’s a fact.
The recipe is a secret passed down from generation to generation. It’s run by a local grandmother. Only, it’s not so secret any more. She shared it with me.
When my friend and fellow volunteer, Alyssa, came to visit me last year, she boasted that this coffee stand sold the best mokary vary in all of Madagascar. At the time, I had only been in Madagascar for three months, so I took her word for it. A year and a half later, I see now that Alyssa wasn’t wrong.
What makes this mokary vary (rice bread or rice cake in the Northern Malagasy dialect) the best? I’m not really sure. Maybe it’s the combination of yeast and baking powder. Maybe it’s the type of rice she uses to grind into flour. Maybe it’s just the right amount of sugar added, or the right amount of charcoal used…or maybe it’s just pure, natural talent.
Whatever it is, I’m satisfied eating it every day. This place has become my daily routine. I wake up, throw on a salovana, sweep my house and then wander out of my yard up the road to drink coffee and eat mokary vary and listen to the gossip and the news. If it weren’t for this place, I’d have no idea what’s happening in the village.
Before Alyssa finished her service, she came back to our coffee shop and begged the owner for the recipe. With a hearty laugh, she obligingly walked us through each step. It’s a two day process. Day two begins very early (“at the cock’s crow”) and we overslept and missed it. But I promised Alyssa that I would go back and observe the final piece of the puzzle, so that she could bring this little piece of Madagascar (my little piece) back to The States with her.
Well Alyssa, here it is. Let me know if it tastes the same over there.
PS: She misses you.
Dady's Mokary Vary Recipe: Ingredients: 4 cups of rice flour 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp yeast 1 cup sugar water The Night Before: 1. Put 4 Tablespoons of rice flour in a saucepan (1 TB per cup of rice flour) 2. Add enough water to make a thin liquid 3. Place the saucepan over direct heat 4. Cook until the mixture (called koba) gets thick and becomes difficult to stir 5. Let the koba cool 6. Add the baking powder and yeast to the remaining rice flour in a large bowl 7. Add the cooled koba to the mixture and combine until it is incorporated. It'll be a bit lumpy 8. Let this mixture sit overnight. I didn't see this part, but I assume Dady covered it with a cloth. The Morning Of (3 am or When the Cock Crows): 1. Add the sugar and enough water to make a very thin batter 2. Heat very small pans with lids over charcoal (or I guess in an oven if you're going that way) 3. Add enough oil to coat the pans 4. Pour about 1/4 cup batter in each pan. Cover and let cook for a few minutes. 5. Flip the mokary once it has had time to set on one side. 6. When the edges are brown, remove and let cool. Make sure to eat this with some really mahery coffee. Mazotoa.