Traditional Paime (payme) Recipe

16.11.17 | Recipe by Renz

A sweet cornmeal pie, filled with flavorful spices, rolled up in a banana leaf and steamed to perfection. This recipe will take you back to a Caribbean Christmas.

How to make Paime

We are how many days away from Christmas?

Time sure does fly! Thanksgiving is next week. That means all the food has started to be planned for the season. Because preparation is important.

There are some foods that are intrinsically thought of as Christmas foods including pastelles, ginger beer, and black cake. Another one of them is paime (pronounced Pay-Me).

What is Paime

This is a simple sweet cornmeal dessert, whose combination though can vary from island to island, but can unanimously be said that it is an island favorite.

As a child, the concept of Christmas was exciting. Putting up the tree, receiving gifts, family coming over. Basically, me doing no work but enjoying the festivities.

As a young adult, it got a bit tedious for the same reasons and now along with the added task of assisting in the prep work. Eventually, I begged to eliminate the tree process ha.

The food prep part though was not avoidable.

I really hated the dishes that had long processes. This especially referred to as making pastelles.

Pastelles required you to mix, press, fill, and boil. A JOB. As a result, I resorted to making an easier version called pastelle pie. Same great flavor in a much simpler process.

How to make Payme

But Paime, some times spelled payme, I don't mind taking a little time to do.

In general, this recipe consists of cornmeal, raisins, coconut, sugar, and some spices. Then it's wrapped up in some banana skin.

What is the best cornmeal to use?

Promasa yellow corn flour is the brand of cornmeal that is very popular in Trinidad to use. But it's not easily found. It's on amazon though, price is a little steep.

So that means we have to find the best one we see in the supermarket.

Cornmeal has a lot of different textures. Grain size can vary from fine, to medium to coarse. Which to use is surely a personal choice.

For payme, I like to use medium to coarse. Fine is usually a very pasty result. No body to the dish. The brand I defer to is Iberia.

But for the pastelle pie, I like to use medium.

The difference in the textures can be compared to oats: one is steel cut oats (coarse) and the other is rolled oats (medium).

Like a lot of our foods, there are different names for this depending on where you come from.

In Trinidad and Tobago we call them paime/payme. In Barbados it is known as conkies. I think the same in Guyana.

Jamaicans call it blue drawers. And I also know it to be called tie-a-leaf, duckoono or boyo.

Regardless of the different names, the steamed dish is an all-around favorite.

It is not too difficult to make.

The wrapping may seem hard but it is not.

As you can see it's wrapped in banana leaf, which acquiring was a mission in itself. I would love to thank my Dad for being a trooper and getting it to me from my Aunt.. in Tobago.

Steps for wrapping paime in banana leaf

What if I can't get banana leaves?

If you happen to not have access to banana leaves, foil is a great substitute.

But as I mentioned in my pastelle recipe, we are now seeing banana leaves selling in Caribbean and Latin supermarkets

In fact, when boiling I sometimes wrap the leaf in foil just to make sure it's even more secure when boiling.

What happens occasionally is that sometimes even though you have tried your best to make the leaves as pliable as possible it still cracks a little.

The additional use of foil over the leaves reinforces the hold and makes it more secure and avoiding leaking while boiling.

Wrapped Paime

Then it's time to plop these bad boys into some boiling water. We leave them to steam for a little bit until nice and firm and cooked.

The cornmeal is steamed to perfection and the smell of the spices as you open up that envelope is... ah mazing

Though I might say this is a dessert, this is eaten anytime. Breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner.

Some people don't make it very sweet (in fact it can be considered savory then) and might eat it along with some meat or fish.

Paime recipe

However you eat it and whatever name you want to call it, paime is surely a treat that captures the full essence of the Christmas season in the Caribbean.

And here are some other great recipes for the season: