There’s no shortage of great meals to be had around the world, but some dishes stand out for their unique flavor profiles.
One such meal is Jaiva, a popular Malagasy (Madagascar) stew that features rice, beans, and vegetables.
Often eaten as part of a larger meal with other foods like eggs and grilled chicken, jaiva can also serve as an entrée on its own, accompanied by French fries, salad, bread, and/or beer.
The dish comes from the Island of Madagascar, where it has been enjoyed for centuries — though not all cultures have embraced it quite so readily.
Here’s what you need to know about this tasty treat before trying your hand at making it yourself.
What Is Jaiva?
Jaiva is a thick soup-like stew found throughout Madagascar.
Its name means “to boil” in Malagasy, although many people use the word “boil” more broadly when describing how they prepare the dish.
The ingredients used to create jaiva vary depending on who you talk to, which likely accounts for the wide variety of recipes available online.
Traditionally, the dish was prepared using coconut milk and spices like cloves, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and curry powder.
Some cooks add tomatoes while others prefer to leave them out entirely.
What Is In A Jaiva Recipe?
You’ll find two main types of jaivas: those containing beef and pork, and those made with seafood.
Both can contain any number of additional ingredients, including potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and chilies.
Vegetables like cabbage, corn, spinach, okra, kale, eggplant, turnips, squash, cassava root, peppers, and bell peppers may also appear in certain versions.
It should go without saying that there’s plenty of room for creativity here, especially if you’re willing to experiment with different combinations of meats and veggies.
You could even try adding things like mushrooms or tofu into your mix!
If you choose to follow the general guidelines of most recipes, however, you’ll end up with something very similar to this one:
1 pound ground beef
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
2 large red onions
4 stalks lemongrass
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
5 teaspoons black peppercorns
8 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole star anise
1 cup coconut cream (from the top of a full-fat canned coconut milk)
1 tablespoon salt (plus more to taste)
In a pot over medium heat, brown the ground beef until cooked through.
Add the pork shoulder and cook for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove both meats from the pan and set aside.
Add the onion to the remaining fat and sauté until softened.
Add the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and peppercorns.
Cook for 3 to 5 minutes before adding the bay leaves and star anise.
Continue to sautee for 2 to 4 minutes longer, then pour in 1½ cups water.
Cover and bring to a simmer.
Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 1 hour.
Remove the lid and increase the temperature slightly.
Add the meat back to the pot along with the coconut cream.
Bring to a simmer again, reduce the heat to low, cover, and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.
Afterward, remove the meats from the broth and discard the bones.
Return the meat to the pot and return it to a simmer.
Season with salt to taste.
How Do You Make Jaiva?
Making jaiva involves boiling everything together in a large stockpot.
Many recipes call for you to boil the mixture uncovered for 45 minutes before adding the meats.
This step allows time for the flavors to meld and infuse properly.
If you’d rather skip this step, feel free to substitute a bouillon cube instead.
Once everything is ready, just ladle the broth into bowls and garnish each serving with sliced green onions, chopped peanuts, lime wedges, slices of lemon, or whatever else sounds good to you.
To keep the flavors consistent between servings, you might want to consider using the same amount of each ingredient, adjusting only the type of meat used.
For example, if you decide to switch out the pork shoulder for lamb shank, cut the quantity accordingly.
What Is The History Of Jaiva?
While jaiva originated in Madagascar, it spread widely across Asia after World War II.
Today, the dish is commonly consumed in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Singapore, Vietnam, China, Japan, and Korea.
In fact, Indonesians refer to jaiva simply as “Malaysian curry.”
Some believe that the dish was brought to Southeast Asia by Portuguese traders during colonial rule, while others insist that it came from Africa via the Arabs.
Regardless of its origins, the dish took hold quickly, perhaps because it pairs well with rice, noodles, or flatbreads.
Many of these countries share a common culinary heritage due to colonialism, migration patterns, and trade routes.
As such, it’s fitting that jaiva would eventually become so widespread.
What Are The Benefits Of Jaiva?
When you think of a hearty meal, chances are you picture comfort food.
That’s exactly what jaiva offers, thanks to its combination of savory flavors.
Meaty proteins combine wonderfully with spices and herbs, lending a rich depth to the broth.
Rice adds a softness to the texture, while legumes provide protein and fiber.
The result is a satisfying bowl of goodness, perfect for filling you up on less than three hours’ notice.
And since jaiva contains relatively few calories per serving, you won’t break a sweat while munching down on it either.
What Are The Side Effects Of Jaiva?
Like all soups and broths, jaiva can cause indigestion if it’s too spicy or acidic.
So take care to adjust the seasoning according to your personal tastes.
Overly salty dishes are also best avoided, as sodium can trigger headaches and high blood pressure.
What Are The Risks Of Jaiva?
As with any kind of food, jaiva isn’t safe for everyone.
Those with kidney disease, gallbladder problems, diabetes, heart conditions, or respiratory issues should avoid consuming it.
Similarly, anyone on medication should consult his doctor first prior to eating jaiva.
And if you don’t already eat enough plant-based diets, you should probably steer clear of this particular dish as well.
Though the nutritional value provided by the meat and dairy content makes it easier to digest, the fats and cholesterol contained therein can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
What Are The Dangers Of Jaiva?
According to the Mayo Clinic, jaiva can be dangerous to your health if you consume it regularly.
While it doesn’t carry the same level of risk as some other unhealthy foods, the potential damage caused by excessive amounts of spice or acidity is still present.
That said, you shouldn’t worry about having too much of anything when preparing jaiva.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a little bit every once in awhile, but moderation will help you stay healthy.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Jaiva?
On the plus side, jaiva provides tons of nutrients.
Not only does it offer a wealth of vitamins and minerals, it also contains significant quantities of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, phosphorus, manganese, folate, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.
Not surprisingly, the majority of these nutrients come from the meat and vegetable components.
On average, a single serving of jaiva supplies nearly half of the daily recommended intake of several important nutrients, including iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin A.
So yes, jaiva can be a nutritious addition to your diet, but it’s far from being a complete meal on its own.
Unless you plan to pair it with other foods, it’s difficult to get enough protein, carbs, and essential fatty acids.
Is Jaiva Worth It?
Since you’ve read this far, we assume the answer is yes.
After all, there aren’t very many dishes that pack all of the above mentioned benefits into one package.
Plus, unlike many other meals, jaiva doesn’t require preparation ahead of time.
Just throw everything into a pot, wait 20 minutes, and dig in.
With all of that said, we recommend limiting your consumption to no more than twice a month, unless you enjoy spicy food.
But hey, that’s just our opinion…
- 1 Pot
- 1 pound ground beef
- 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
- 2 large red onions
- 4 stalks lemongrass
- 6 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 5 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 8 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon whole star anise
- 1 cup coconut cream from the top of a full-fat canned coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon salt plus more to taste
- In a pot over medium heat, brown the ground beef until cooked through.
- Add the pork shoulder and cook for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove both meats from the pan and set aside.
- Add the onion to the remaining fat and sauté until softened.
- Add the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and peppercorns.
- Cook for 3 to 5 minutes before adding the bay leaves and star anise.
- Continue to sautee for 2 to 4 minutes longer, then pour in 1½ cups water.
- Cover and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 1 hour.
- Remove the lid and increase the temperature slightly.
- Add the meat back to the pot along with the coconut cream.
- Bring to a simmer again, reduce the heat to low, cover, and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Afterward, remove the meats from the broth and discard the bones.
- Return the meat to the pot and return it to a simmer.
- Season with salt to taste.
- Serve hot.