Ayaka for Christmas

On our little tropical island, ayaka is like snow to Christmas. There’s simply no Christmas without it. In December, hours are spend in the kitchens of many homes just by making ayaka. And in line with good tradition every family claims, of course, that their recipe happens to be thé best recipe for ayaka.

A few years ago, I was taking Papiamentu classes with a lovely lady. One day in class, while practicing my verbal skills, we started chatting about food and the subject landed on ayaka. As it turned out, besides being an excellent language teacher, she was also an experienced ayaka chef. At that time I had just started working on the first edition of my magazine Island Vibes, which would come out just before Christmas. So long story short: we ended up spending two days in the kitchen together making ayaka! She shared all her expertise on how to prepare the best ayaka and taught me all her tips and tricks. And what did I do? I took notes and pictures and published our whole ayaka adventure in my magazine! It’s three years later now and only a few days before Christmas. But there’s still enough time to get into that kitchen and make ayaka. So I’m very excited to share this recipe here with you on my blog. Wishing you all a merry Christmas filled with love ánd ayaka!

Note: making ayaka requires a lot of preparation time so make sure to start one day in advance! This recipes makes 36 pieces. You can easily freeze any leftovers. 

the best ayaka recipe

Recipe for (the best) ayaka

recipe: courtesy of the lovely Mrs. Minerva Hieroms

Makes 36 medium-sized ayakas

  1. Special equipment:
    tortilla press
    kitchen string
    banana leaves

Chicken Stock

6 quarts (6 liters) water
7 lbs. (3kg) chicken legs and thighs, bone-in
3 cups (150g) yellow onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 cups (100g) green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 cup (100g) celery stalks, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons (20g) powdered chicken stock

To make the chicken stock: combine all ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 1¼ hour. 

Pour the contents of the pot into a strainer. Taste the stock and adjust the seasoning. It should be quite salty. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. A layer of fat will solidify on the surface of the stock; spoon it off and discard. Reserve 2 quarts (2 liter) of stock for the dough. Reserve 2 quarts (2 liter) of stock for the chicken stew.

Pull the chicken apart with 2 forks. Discard the skin. Reserve the leftover vegetables for the chicken stew. 

Ruku Oil

2 cups (500ml) sunflower oil
½ cup (175g) ruku (annato)

In a saucepan over high heat, bring the oil and ruku to a boil. Continue boiling for about 10 minutes until the color of the oil has turned to deep orange. Remove from the heat, let cool and strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve. Reserve the ruku for another use. 

Chicken Stew

2.2 lbs. (1kg) cleaned chicken from the stock
2 quarts (2 liter) chicken stock
2 cups (100g) yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 cup (100g) celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 cup (50g) green bell pepper, roughly chopped
leftover stock vegetables
¾ cup (175ml) ruku oil
1 cup (125g) pickled pearl onions
½ cup (75g) dried plums
1/3 cup (50g) raisins
½ cup (75g) green olives stuffed with red pepper
½ cup (75g) capers
1 tablespoon Ketjap Manis
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Return the chicken, stock and chopped vegetables together with the leftover stock vegetables to the stockpot. Bring to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat and let simmer until reduced into a sauce, about 45 minutes. Season to taste.

Banana Leaves

20 fresh large banana leaves (or store-bought ayaka leaves)
2 tablespoons sunflower oil

Cut away the central stem of the banana leaves and cut into rectangles about 8-inch x10 inch (20cm x 25cm) each. Fill a large stockpot with water and stir in 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil. Place the leaves in the stockpot, making sure they are covered with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 

Remove from the heat and strain. Clean each piece and cut off any brown ends. Wrap the leaves in a damp kitchen towel and store in the fridge until ready to use. They will keep for 1 month.

the best ayaka recipe



2.2 lbs. (1kg) white masa harina (PAN)
1.1 lb. (500g) yellow masa harina (PAN)
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (125g) vegetable shortening
½ cup (125g) margarine
2/3 cup (175ml) ruku oil
2 quarts (2 liter) chicken stock, lukewarm
½ cup (60g) powdered chicken stock
6 tablespoons (90ml) sauce from the chicken stew

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients and knead well until the dough comes together. When it’s done, you’ll hear a soft “puff” when kneading it.

Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel to make sure it doesn’t dry out.

Filling (9 ingredients)

1 1/3 cup (300ml) piccalilly 
1 Scotch Bonnet chili
1 cup (150g) dill pickles, finely chopped
1 cup (125g) pickled pearl onions
1 cup (150g) dried plums
1 cup (150g) raisins
1 cup (150g) green olives stuffed with red pepper, halved
1 cup (150g) capers
4 cups (200g) yellow onion, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced

Process the piccalilly and chili in a food processor until smooth and transfer to a squeeze bottle.

Assemble the ayakas

for 1 ayaka

2 pieces of banana leave
¼ cup (100g) dough, rolled into a ball
⅓ cup (50g) chicken stew
1 teaspoon dill pickles
2 pickled pearl onions
1 dried plum
1 teaspoon raisins
2 green olives stuffed with red pepper halves
½ teaspoon capers
½ teaspoon yellow onion, finely chopped
2 slices of red bell pepper
1 teaspoon piccalilly

 Wrap the top part of the tortilla press with plastic wrap to prevent the dough from sticking. Put the biggest piece of banana leave lengthwise on your work surface. Put the other piece of banana leave on your tortilla press, ribbed side up. Put a ball of dough in the middle of the leave and pull the press down. Transfer the leave with the pressed-out dough to the middle of the long leave on your work surface.

Divide the chicken over the top half of the dough. Distribute the other ingredients evenly over the chicken. Fold the lower end of the smaller leaf over the filling. Use the bigger leave to wrap the ayaka, like a present, and press down. Make sure that all parts are securely wrapped in banana leave, so water doesn’t enter when you cook them later. Measure 3 ayaka lengths of kitchen string and tie each ayaka in a tic tac toe pattern as shown on the pictures.

To cook:

Bring a large stockpot with water to a boil. Add the ayakas, let the water return to a boil then lower the heat for a gentle boil. Cook the ayakas for 40 minutes, or until puffed. Strain and serve immediately.

Reheat any leftover ayakas au bain marie for 20 minutes in a strainer set over a pot of boiling water.

the best ayaka recipe