My Chop Challenge

This month my self-appointed challenge was to make chop. This was a bold move because chop is a special childhood dish for my dining companion. It feels risky to mess with someone's childhood memories. If he doesn't like it, will memories of my bad chop start to taint his happier memories of chop as a kid? ("I used to love that stuff... until SHE made it!")

What is chop? Basically chopped kale (or whatever dark green you have), cooked a long, long time with a bit of meat, hot peppers and palm oil. The result is unbelievably rich and tender and savory and tasty.

The backstory is that chop comes from West Africa, which is where my dining companion's parents met. I have seen him and his siblings go crazy for it! Grammie S made a batch over the holidays and all 3 tore in, getting second and third helpings, and adding more hot peppers as they went. I did too, it's really delicious. They also discussed the recipe, and it did Not Sound So Hard.

  • some kind of meat: smoked pork hocks, leftover ham pieces, canned corned beef and/or Spam
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 pickled hot cherry peppers, Italian type
  • 1/2 cup of liquid from pepper jar
  • 1/2 cup palm oil or "palm cream"
  • 2 pounds of chopped frozen kale or other greens (I used frozen collards & turnip greens)
  • 1 small can chicken broth (or a bouillon cube and water, or just water)
  1. Put the meat in the crockpot. (I used smoked pork hocks.) Saute the onion and add to the hocks along with the chopped peppers and pepper liquid.

  2. Strew palm oil/cream about (it tends to be very gooey). Arrange chopped frozen greens on top of everything and turn crockpot on to low.
  3. After about half an hour, add a small can of chicken broth. (Or use a bouillon cube in water instead, or just water.) The idea is to make sure the hocks are mostly covered with liquid so they braise all day. Add more water if needed to cover.
  4. Cook until the hocks are falling apart. If you know how to eat pork hocks as is, then serve. Or, remove the hocks, take off the meat, and put it back into the crockpot. Discard rest of hocks.

  5. Falling apart, I picked off the meat.

  6. Serve over white rice with extra hot peppers on the side.


The result of my chop challenge was complete satisfaction. My dining companion was impressed! Thank you to Grammie S and Auntie A for sharing a special family recipe. According to them, you can also use mustard greens. You can also use fresh greens that are chopped fine. (You may need to add more liquid if so, since the frozen greens do contribute some juice.)

Grammie S also says a dash of ketchup is optional. Or really, you can add or tweak however you wish, since this is a highly adaptable recipe. I would say the only required elements are meat, greens, peppers and palm oil. DO NOT attempt this recipe without palm oil on hand. It is essential for the right flavor and mouthfeel.

I'd never heard of chop in any other context. I tried looking it up and found one entry from, which quotes Sir Richard Burton as saying "Palm-oil chop is the curry of the Western coast." Interesting how several of the quotes about chop seem to involve consuming it with alcohol.

Let me know if you give this a try or have had something like it!

Other challenges this year:
January: Banh Mi
February: Kouign Amann
March: Croque Monsieur
April: Sourdough bread


Alice said...

greens? meat? peppers? crock pot? i think i might have found the new fav. dish for my dining companion. that CSA share of mustard greens might actually produce a decent dish this season. love these cooking challenges-and seasonal too. go prof. kitty.

Umbagollah said...

I've seen chop mentioned in more than one book (I'm being vague because I don't remember the titles of the books, but I think they were written by British people who'd visited the area, both during the period of colonisation and afterwards -- Gerald Durrell, perhaps?) but this is the first time I've been able to read such a close description. So thank you. That was useful.

"Prof. Kitty" said...

Alice, I hope you try it, it is really easy! (And spicy!)

Umbagollah, hooray, so glad that someone else has heard of chop! Glad that I could contribute a little to understanding this stuff.