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Liberian Check Rice

April 21, 2014

Liberian Check Rice and Gravey2

Cuttington gave us a long break for Easter so I’ve been brushing up on some of my domestic skills. During the week I don’t usually get home until about 6:00pm so I want quick no-frills food like pepper soup that I can throw in a pot and leave for an hour. Sometimes I miss the variety of food I used to get in Sanniquellie, though, so on breaks I like to cook different things.

This is a recipe I got from Serena and the ol’ ma at Club Universe in Sanniquellie. They disagreed about some of the procedures and quantities of ingredients so feel free to adjust things to your preferences—this is just the way I usually do it.

Generally, Liberians don’t care about quantities and measurements the same way Americans do. In Kakata I used to drive my Ma crazy learning to cook. I’d sit and watch her with a copybook and it was always, “But how much should I put in?” She’d just shake her head and laugh, “How much do you want, Leela?

So if you love onions or garlic or hot pepper don’t be shy—put it in! The only thing you are forced to use a lot of in this recipe is oil. If you skimp in that you won’t have any gravy and your rice will be dry.

Expect the whole process to take 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on your skill at multitasking.



1 Liberian Cup of Rice                                              ($25LD)*

1 bunch Palava Sauce                                              ($10LD)**


1 small can tomato paste                                         ($25LD)

1 small plastic natural peanut butter                     ($5LD)***

2-3 small white onions                                             ($20LD)

1 clove garlic (optional)                                           ($5LD)

1 chicken Vita cube                                                   ($5LD)

hot pepper to taste                                                   ($5LD)

salt and black pepper to taste


Oil for frying

Chicken, beef (“cow meat” in Liberia) or fish as desired. To be really Liberian use all three.


* A Liberian cup is not the same as an American cup. It’s measured using a standard tin can like you’d buy vegetables or beans in and is about 1.5 to 2 American cups. I measure my rice with a coffee cup and fill it to the brim. This makes three normal size servings or two very large serving.

** Palava sauce is a slippery leaf that can be cooked as its own dish or added to another like we’re doing here. You probably won’t find it in America but you could fake your own using frozen spinach and okra.

*** Peanut butter comes in a large bucket but market women tie spoonfuls of it off in tiny pieces of plastic for retail sale. For this recipe you need about a tablespoon.



  1. Cut your meat of choice into small pieces and season with onion, pepper, Vita and tomato paste. If you are using chicken or fish you’ll fry the meat then add it to the gravy. Frying will make cow meat tough so if you want to use that option par-boil it with some onion, garlic, pepper, and Vita until it is soft (no need for the tomato). While you are doing this you can start preparing the rice.
  2. Thoroughly rinse the rice in water and add to boiling water. Boil until it’s just soft (10-15 minutes depending on your rice) then remove any excess water, reduce the heat, and let it steam.
  3. While the rice is boiling pick the palava sauce leaves from the steams, rinse them well and roughly chop them in small pieces.
  4. When the rice has finished boiling add a generous amount of salt and the chopped palava sauce to the hot rice and stir slightly. Return the cover to the pot and let it sit. The steam will finish the rice and also cook the palava sauce.
  5. Check the meat. Remove it from the heat when it is done and set it aside.
  6. Add a generous amount (like 3-4 American cups) of the frying oil to a skillet or saucepan to use for the gravy. Dice the onion, garlic, and hot pepper and add to the hot oil. Fry until soft.
  7. Carefully stir about half of the tomato paste and the peanut butter into the mixture. You may need to reduce the heat to keep the peanut butter from burning.
  8. Add about half a vita cube, salt, black pepper, and any other seasoning you enjoy. Continue to fry until it starts to thicken a bit and come together.
  9. Remove from heat and carefully stir in the meat. Let everything rest together for a few minutes so the meat can absorb the flavors from the gravy.
  10. Serve with the rice and enjoy!
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