On Ash Wednesday the people of São Tomé celebrate O Dia do Bocado (literally, the “Day of a Mouthful”). It is traditional to serve calulu on this day. The government has decreed this to be a half-day holiday, on which the family gathers in the home of the eldest member, usually the grandmother, to whom they serve a spoonful of the food before the meal begins. This is a symbolic act that gives the holiday its name.

It is customary to spread a tablecloth on the floor, over a straw mat, on which the food is placed. Family members sit around the food. They begin with a prayer, sing religious songs, and then tell stories about the life of Christ.

The high point comes when the matriarch accepts the first spoonful of calulu. At this point the banquet begins.

Other than calulu, which is made from greens, fresh or smoked fish, and palm oil, served with rice or Banana Purée, cozido de banana com peixe and a dessert of arroz doce are also served.

In Angola this dish is served with Toasted Manioc Meal with Palm Oil. In both São Tomé and Angolachicken pieces are often used instead of fish.


3 pounds grouper fillets, cut into serving pieces

1 teaspoon salt

juice of 1 lemon

2 large onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into ½-inch slices

1 bunch collard greens, cut into ¼-inch strips

3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

3 malaguetta peppers, seeded and chopped

26 okra pods, sliced thinly, or 2 (10 ounce) frozen packages

1 bay leaf

1 cup palm oil

4 tablespoons flour

1 sprig basil


Season the fish pieces with salt and lemon juice and set aside for 20 minutes. In a large skillet place the chopped onions, garlic, eggplants, collard greens, tomatoes, malaguetta peppers, okra, and the bay leaf. Pour the palm oil over all; cover and bring to a boil. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook for 5 minutes. Add fish and enough water to cover the mixture. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking until the fish is done, about 20 minutes. Mix the flour in a little cold water and add to the sauce. Stir well and let simmer for 5 minutes to thicken sauce. Continue stirring to prevent sauce from sticking, adding more water if necessary. Finally add the sprig of basil.

Serve with white rice or Banana Purée.

Cook’s Note: After placing the fish fillets on top of the vegetables, add 2 bouillon cubes to the water that covers the mixture. This makes a rich broth.


Serves 4 - 6.


country : São Tomé and Príncipe

course : fish dish


source : Cuisines of Portuguese Encounters / Cherie Y. Hamilton