Duncana (Antiguan Sweet Potato Dumplings) are an Antiguan side dish made from sweet potatoes, coconut, and cinnamon. The combination is formed into dumplings, wrapped in banana leaves, and boiled in water to cook.
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Please Note: This recipe is titled “Sweet Potato Dumplings” in order to give readers from the United States a description of what Duncana is. In the USA, sweet potatoes are the orange yams used in this recipe. In Antigua, Sweet Potato Dumplings are something entirely different, made with white sweet potatoes and flour and served with Salt Fish, Red Herring, or Mackerel.
I walk in the door of my house on a Friday evening, arms full to the brim with grocery bags, work bags, lunch bags, the works. I waddle into the kitchen, heave my collection of junk on the kitchen counter, and breathe a sigh of relief. It’s been a long week, and I can’t wait to relax, enjoy my weekend, and get into the kitchen.
Because my day at work ended a little early, I had hopped in my car around 3:00 and driven to Detroit for some last minute grocery shopping. The trip took me about 2.5 hours round-trip, but the journey was well worth it. Not only did I find the most AMAZING Mexican food store, I also was able to save a whole $15 on my banana leaves (as opposed to buying them on Amazon)! Okay, I’m aware that $15 might have been worth 2.5 hours of my time but… ya’ll… I’m cheap.
I’m exhausted, so I pet my dog and run upstairs to change into my jammies (yes, jammies at 5:30 pm on a Friday… this blog isn’t here for you to judge me, so just shhhh). As I’m changing in my room, Mama Foreign Fork walks into the kitchen and sees my bag of banana leaves on the counter. By the time I’m back downstairs, she’s already taken the leaves out of the bag and laid them out to examine them.
I descend the stairs into my kitchen and stop dead in my tracks.
I cannot believe my eyes.
I’m not kidding, these banana leaves were Ginormous. Gigantic. Humongous. Gargantuan.
They took up the entire island countertop in my kitchen.
When I had put the leaves in my shopping cart, I didn’t know what to expect. I do know that I did NOT anticipate 15-foot long leaves in my home. These things were the Real. Freaking. Deal.
Making the Antiguan Duncana
Making the duncana was such a fun experience because it was unlike anything I had ever done before. To make these dumplings, grate sweet potatoes and then combine them with sugar, coconut, flour and spices. Form the mixture into dumplings, wrap in banana leaves and secure with twine, and then boil for about 45 minutes. The end result is a sweet potato dumpling that is the perfect side to a seafood dish like bacalao or red snapper.
I cooked about half of the duncana in banana leaves and, as an experiment, wrapped the other half in aluminum foil. Both types emerged from the water a little soggy but delicious nonetheless. Perhaps try securing your aluminum foil a bit more carefully than I secured mine before popping them in the water. The coconut and sweet potato combination creates a flavor dream come true! Let me know what you think of the recipe in the comments below.
Duncana (Antiguan Sweet Potato Dumplings)
- 8 banana leaves, or aluminum foil
- 1 dry coconut, grated
- 3 lb 1.4 kg sweet potatoes, grated
- 2 cups 480 ml flour
- 1/2 cup 120 ml sugar
- 1/2 cup 120 ml water
- 1 tbsp 15 ml vanilla
- 1/2 tsp 2 ml cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp 2 ml salt
- 1/4 tsp 1 ml nutmeg
- Wash banana leaves and remove central stems.
- Cut leaves into 5-inch (13 cm) squares.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add leaves and blanch for about 10 seconds to soften. Remove and run under water to cool. Set aside.
- Combine all remaining ingredients, mixing to make a very soft dough. Add a little extra water if dough is too stiff, or add flour if dough is too liquid.
- Place about 1/2 cup dough on each leaf. Fold to make a neat parcel. Secure by tying with kitchen twine or leftover strips of banana leaf. Dough can also be wrapped in aluminum foil if banana leaves are unavailable.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add ducuna packets and simmer for about 45 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.