Saturday, April 26, 2008


CASSAVA OR YUCA! What is it? What's the code? This is the question I always get when I buy yuca/cassava at Whole Foods market. The cashier scrambles to ask other cashiers to know what is this 'thing' called and to search page after page in her or his book for the code to enter. If I buy it at an Asian or a Hispanic market, of course, the cashier usually knows what it is. No question was asked. It is not very American at all, isn't it?

I grew up eating yuca in Indonesia. It's a root that tastes very similar to potatoes. There is a waxy film covering the root (I think it is to preserve it's freshness). After it is cut horizontally into chunks, the brown and waxy outer layer can be removed easily with a knife.

I like eating yuca, deep fried, just like thick French Fries. Indonesians have many ways/recipes to prepare yuca. We eat them as snacks. It can be prepared salty or sweet (as desserts).

I usually boil yuca in salty water for about 20 to 25 minutes. I tried the pressure cooker, too, which only take 3 minutes (under pressure). Below is my garlicky yuca recipe. This dish can be eaten just like it is (boiled). Or, the gravy (sauce) can be drained and then the yuca is deep fried until they are crispy. DH who loves fried food loves deep fried yuca. Boiled yuca looks soft but it becomes hard and crispy when it is deep fried.

Garlicky Yuca/Cassava

1.5 lb yuca/cassava (prepared as pictured)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tsp. table salt
3 cups water or enough to cover it entirely
1 tsp. oil

In oil, sauté
garlic until fragrant. Add the yuca chunks, water and salt. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until tender. The water will become a bit thick like gravy.

I have other recipe I adapted from Bryanna's recipe. I receive this recipe after I emailed Bryanna about the Peruvian restaurant we visited one day, called Inka Mamas. One of their menu items is called YUCA ALA HUANCAINA. Of course, Bryanna has a recipe for this dish with potato, instead. She said I can replace it with yuca. It's an appetizer consists of lettuce, corn, carrots, olives, and deep fried yuca smothered with 'cheezy' warm sauce.

(adapted from Bryanna's recipe)
Serves 6

1 Garlicky Yuca/Cassava recipe (above), deep fried

White Sauce ingredients:
1/2 pkg. Mori-nu Silken Tofu, Firm
1 cup soy milk
1/2 to 1 cup water
2 Tbsp. non-dairy margarine/Earth Balance
2 Tbsp. unbleached flour

1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 an onion, minced
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 Tsp. minced jalapeño
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of white pepper
2 Tbsp. Bill's Best Chiknish
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp. salt

6 to 8 large lettuce leaves
18 black olives
12 2"-long chunks of cold cooked corn on the cob
12 2"-chunks cold cooked carrots

White Sauce:
Combine silken tofu, soy milk, and 1/2 cup water in a blender. Blend until smooth/not grainy (take a few minutes). Melt margarine/Earth Balance in a small sauce pan on a low heat. Add flour and combine until thickened. Scrape flour mixture into the blender. Blend until smooth.

Sauté the chopped onion, hot peppers and turmeric in the olive oil until the onion is soft. Stir in the white sauce, chicknish, spices, salt, and nutritional yeast. Keep warm. If the sauce is too thick, add the remaining water (or add more) a little each time until desired consistency.

On each serving plate, place a lettuce leaf. Place a few chunks of deep fried yuca (still hot) on each lettuce leaf. Place a few olives, 2 chunks of carrots, and 2 chunks of corn around the yuca. Drizzle the yuca with the sauce, distributing evenly. Serve immediately with more sauce, if desired.

I used the left over sauce on top of Tofu Benedict(toast, tofu, vegan sausage, caramelized mushrooms, and grilled tomatoes) for breakfast and it's delish!

Yuca tastes just like potatoes. If you can find it, don't be afraid to cook it and try it!