Pumpkin “punky” stew
What: Known as punky in Krio, this delicious medley of squash, onion, chile peppers, and oil—usually seasoned with some help from Maggi stock cubes, unfortunately—offers a nice break, in both color and texture, from the leaf-based plasas. Like other Salone stews and soups, it often incorporates some fish or meat and is served over rice for lunch. It’s one of our favorite chops.
Where: Our punky comes from community-based eco-resort Tribewanted (232-78290578 or 232-78738583; John Obey beach), on the stunning Freetown Peninsula coastline. We were fortunate to stay there a few days, but non-guests who stop by are allowed to request lunch (be sure to call ahead). The beachside setting is so spectacular, you won’t want to leave—and the resort’s tents, bungalows, and huts ensure you don’t have to. (We recommend you stay at least one night—trust us, you’ll want to.)
When: Lunch is typically served around 1pm, but you have to arrive early or phone ahead to order chop.
Order: When making punky (Le35,000 for non-guests), the kitchen crew here cuts the squash into big hunks, is generous with the heat, and always uses healthy local rice and lots of fish caught by the adjacent John Obey fishing village. The result is a big plate of hearty, spicy deliciousness.
Alternatively: We also had a lovely version of this at Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary (Tiwai Island, map), a tropical wildlife sanctuary and community conservation program in the tranquil Moa River. Between primate-spotting hikes and lazy hammock swings, we requested this dish in advance in order to give the resourceful village chef enough time to score some pumpkin from the village across the river. At Tiwai, the squash was cubed smaller, but was likewise served over tasty country rice.