Is a fry a fry if it’s not a french fry?
I will admit that YUCA is not an easy ingredient to approach if you have not handled it before. But like many roots or yams with a tough skin, once you get past cutting through the skin and learn how to cook it, it is amazing just how versatile this ingredient is.
Yuca is cassava (manihot esculenta) also known as manioc, mandioca, aipim, boba, and yuca. Tapioca, most commonly known in the United States, is treated and dried cassava.
It is important to make the distinction between YUCA and YUCCA: they have similar names, except the two plants are botanically unrelated. Yuca is casssava, a starchy root with a high carbohydrate content, as well as Vitamin C, phosphorous and calcium. Yucca is a tree, from the family of the Agave species. It has long green leaves and white flowers on its pinnacle and it is common in the Americas and the Caribbean.
The versatility of the yuca root as been explored in many cultures dating back 10,000 BC. Amazingly, today more than 250 million tons are produced yearly in tropical countries around the world. In Venezuela yuca is used daily in soups, boiled, pureed, or fried. It has been used for centuries by indigenous tribes on the coast and in the jungle, such as the Yanomami, Karina, Warao and Arawak. They use it as a main source of food, making it into casabe, a flat, round bread (or thick cracker) cooked on a griddle over the fire as well as fermented to make an alcoholic drink.In my right hand I have yuca, the larger root and in my left hand I have two pieces of malanga, also a starchy root grown in tropical and subtropical countries. It is closest to the taro root. Although its uses are similar to yuca, the two are distinguishable. The yuca root tends to be larger with a waxed finished look to it, while the malanga is smaller and has a hairier finish. There are two kinds of yuca, commonly differentiated as sweet and bitter; and the difference relates to the amount of toxins it might have. Sweet yuca should not be eaten raw, as the cooking process cleanses the root of the low-level toxins. Bitter yuca, larger in size than the sweet yuca that is commercially available, is treated by boiling, squeezing and then further cooking the root to remove all toxins (all processes that have been used by indigenous tribes for centuries).We went over to FRJTZ down the street from Pica Pica on Valencia street to taste some delicious fries. I love these Belgian fries and, even more, their selection of sauces. Nothing like a good basket or cone of fries and a beer on a cold San Francisco day. But what is it about about french fries that is so delicious? It is, after all, potatoes… The starch, the fact that it is fried and crunchy? So, is a fry just a fry? What about a yuca fry? In my opinion they are equally delicious and satisfying (and not as greasy!), particularly with a good drink.Before frying the yuca for fries, it needs to be boiled to soften the root. After boiling, either serve immediately or pat dry and let cool. Deep fry in very hot oil and serve immediately. Yuca fries are very popular in Venezuela and Colombia. I think these yuca fries are delicious with Pica’Pun (hot, hot sauce) or Mela’o de Papelon (sugar cane sauce). The fries are starchy and can be dry, so a good sauce is an excellent idea.At Pica Pica we like to toss them with garlic and cilantro. This keeps them a bit more moist and gives them some extra kick!
A most delicious way of eating yuca is boiled (asada). After removing the skin, just boil the root until it changes from white to a beige color. Cut in slices or sticks 1/2 inch wide and serve immediately with a cilantro sauce (mojo) or any sauce, or butter and salt.One of my favorite dishes is a very old recipe from Caracas called “Bollos Pelones.” These are yuca buns filled with pork and beef stew (similar in taste to the hallaca stew – spicy, sweet and sour), served over a Caracas-style tomato sauce. It is an old recipe that not too many people make or serve anymore. The yuca root needs to peeled, then boiled and refrigerated overnight. The next day the root is shredded into a puree to make the buns, which are then filled with a meat stew, rolled over corn flour and then briefly fried to give them a crunchy finish. I like to serve them with greens tossed with passion fruit vinaigrette.