Afro-Panamanian haute cuisine;  revolution of a despised social class

Panama- They are not the most luxurious kitchens of Panama, but from them come the more sophisticated dishesprepared by the children or grandchildren of the Afro-descendant cooks who fed the wealthiest classes in the country in the mid-20th century.

The haute cuisine “Afro” in Panama it has expanded in recent years throughout the country, mainly in the capital, hand in hand with chefs, of Afro-colonial origin either Afro-Caribbeantrained in the best culinary schools of America or Europe.

“Historically we have been in charge of transforming all this (food) into that festival of color and flavor, and now they come from different parts of the world to Panama to try” the dishes”, Armando Bramwell, the chef at La Tapa del Coco restaurant, located in a wealthy neighborhood of Panama City, tells Efe.

While cooking a particular ‘One Pot’, rice with pork ribs, shrimp and beans bathed in the house’s special “BocaTown” sauce, Bramwell recounts the gastronomy evolution who saw him grow up and gave him his profession.

“The story is that the ‘One Pot’ was all that was in the fridge and we would put it in one pot and it would come out this magical, splendor thing as we know it today”he describes as he pours the spices over the rice.

The ‘One Pot’ of the Tapa del Coco “unlike the traditional one” is “more friendly; it is a rice with a lot of seasoning”.

Elsewhere in the capital, Kristopher Kasim, popularly known as Chef Kasim, elaborate three specialties of the house in a Small kitchen of restaurant which bears the same name, located in Down river, a neighborhood built by Afro-Antilleans who worked on the construction of the Panama Canal.

The Chef Kasim mixes the flavor of its roots: His paternal family comes from San Andrés, Colombia, his mother from Kingston, Jamaica, and he was born in the US but raised in Panama.

“Firstly (I learned) by seeing my grandmother, with these Jamaican foods (…) She was putting all this in me, cod fritters, saus, which in the long run I understood, because I did not understand the concept of Afro-descendants,” details.


“The afro-caribbean or afrocolony foodhe arose in around an oppressionit is not a food done with freedom to eat”says chef Bramwell, a “full-fledged Afro-descendant” with family ties in the two main Afro-Caribbean settlements in Panama: Bocas del Toro and Colón.

According to Efe Bramwell and Kasim, the source of the afro gastronomy it was elaborate dishs with the “leftovers” of people of higher social class.

“Our culture revolves around eat those things that nobody wanted. We have historically been in charge of transform and bring to life to all those pieces (which to another was nothing),” explains Bramwell.

It is also synonymous with “sit around the table, where we forge our history, our legacy”, says the chef. A current and collective example is the case of Boho Town, a restaurant in the middle of Río Abajo that has become a social point for the Afro community.

The actual afro gastronomy is a “mixture of whats predecessors” and of the new chefs; a combination that Kasim predicts that the new generations will follow until turning it in a most famous cuisine

The gastronomic metamorphosis It has gone hand in hand with the historic social revolution of Afro-descendants, until it evolved into one of the most demanded cuisines, preserving traditional foods, some of them previously associated with poverty and, now, enormously expensive.

“Nobody wanted to eat or cook salt cod (…) My grandmother told me that to cook it they closed the doors. It cost 5 cents. And now how much? 10 dollars,” says Bramwell.



The Afro-descendant cuisine it is characterized by season with a big variety of speciesyes, the special touch of chili chomboproteins such as “dried shrimp, tail and cod”, and, as one of its main characteristics, coconut, lists Bramwell.

And with these ingredients create dishes What OnePot, sous, Cod fritters either pattymost with Anglo-Saxon name due to part of his origin in the Antilles.

“If you are a full-blooded Afro-descendant, you have to have that in your pantry. It is not negotiable,” jokes the chef of La Tapa del Coco, one of the country’s best valued Afro food restaurants.

However, it is one of the most demanding kitchens: according to Kasim: “The afro gastronomy is very wantedbut criticized, because it is very demandingIt’s time to eat. I think it is the most demanding at the national level because there are many people who do it and compare themselves”.

“History has stolen a lot from us, but we are still present in everything,” concludes Bramwell. EFE

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Source: Critica

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Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a freelance writer working on news website. He contributes to Our Blog and more. Wise also works in higher ed sustainability and previously in stream restoration. He loves running, trees and hanging out with her family.

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