We’re going to start with the obvious questions, or at least the ones I asked. What the heck is yuca, where’s it from and how do you cook it? Why did I ask these questions? My son brought a full plant home from work and we had no clue what it was. After some research we learned it was Yuca also known as Cassava.
So now some fun facts. Yuca (Pronounced YOU-KA) is a root plant, not to be confused with a Yucca (Yu-Ka), which is a pointy ornamental plant. Yuca is the basis for tapioca powder and pearls. Important note: If you have a latex allergy, according to the Board of Pediatrics, you might not want to eat Yuca or tapioca.
More about the plant. The Yuca is a long tubular root, and can grow anywhere from a few inches to about a foot long, and about 2 to 4″ in diameter. The skin is brown and bark-like; the flesh is white like a potato. If the roots are large, there will also be a hard core, similar to a pineapple core in the middle.
If the Yuca is young and small you will be able to peel it with a potato peeler, but if not, it will require some strength and a sharp knife to cut off the bark-like skin. Cut a slice down the side, and then place your blade along the flesh and peel back the bark. Yuca can be eaten boiled, fried, or baked, but not raw. Regarding the note above, Yuca contains chemicals which convert to cyanide, but cooking whether boiled or fried, gets rid of it and makes it safe to eat. Apparently, though I haven’t looked for it yet, you can buy frozen Yuca fries in the grocery store.
So, for the recipe. It was easy peasy.
- 1# of peeled Yuca
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. anise seeds (optional)
- 2 tbsp. grated onion or 1/2 tsp. onion salt
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Oil for frying
The Yuca we had was very young and not really firm, having soaked up a lot of rain in the last two days. We were able to easily peel it with a regular potato peeler. We took the peeled Yuca and grated it on the large grate size of our box grater. If the Yuca you use is older, you will only be able to grate as far as the core, but since these were not yet fibrous, we were able to grate the entire thing. We then squeezed out as much liquid as we could. We added the egg, anise seed which we broke up with a mortar and pestle, and the salt. We mixed it up well making sure it was all blended.
In a skillet with high sides, I heated about 1/2″ of oil until it was hot. To test if it is hot enough, take the handle of a wooden spoon. Put the tip of the spoon handle so it rests on the bottom of the pan. If the oil is hot enough you will see visible bubbles form at the top of the oil around the spoon handle.
Using a table spoon, mold a firm and rounded, but compact spoonful and squeeze out any liquid you can. Carefully push this into the oil, leaving space between. Cook until golden brown edges appear, then using two spatulas, turn them over. When they are golden brown on both sides, remove them and set them aside on paper towels to drain.
One pound of Yuca will make 12 to 14 fritters. You can eat them plain – they were delicious, or serve them with cilantro mayo, sriracha ketchup, or if the Jewish in you rises up, sour cream and apple sauce. LOL
Now about the name. Arañitas means little spiders, and refers to the thready crispy edges of the fritters when they are fried. If you grate the Yuca on the smaller grates, it makes a creamier grate and they are then known as Arepitas. Although Yuca is traditional, my next experiment is to make these with Plantains. I understand they are equally tasty, though a little more work as the plantain needs to soak in salt water for about 15 minutes before being mixed with seasonings and fried.
We enjoyed these instead of potatoes with Pork Tenderloin and peas.