|This is what Mandioca will look like at a grocery store in the United States or other country of export.|
I would like to take this time to discuss a root that is very dear to the country of Brazil: Mandioca. Pronounced "Mon-dgee-oka". In the United States it can be found in your grocer's produce section labeled as "Yucca Root." This root goes by 3 names that I know of: Mandioca in Brazil, Yucca in other Central/South American and American countries, and Cassava in Africa. I was unaware of this marvelous root before I met my husband in the states. I found that most of the grocery stores I shopped at carried it, but you MUST check them well before purchasing them. The reason being that most of the Yucca Root I've seen in the states is imported from Central and Latin American countires, and can be quite old by the time you see it. Since it is a root, it lasts quite a while after picked, however it does still have a shelf life. When being exported to the USA, it is usually covered in a wax covering for preservation. While this is helpful, it does make it harder for the buyer to be able to tell how old it is when deciding which pieces are best to buy. So here is a tip for those in the USA and other countries where Mandioca is not a natural product: Break it open! Don't be afraid to break it open and have a look inside. This is the only way you will be able to tell if it is any good or not.
A healthy, proper to eat Mandioca root should be white to opaque inside.
In Brazil there are yellow and white varieties, but I only ever witness the white variety in the states. It's ok if there are very few tiny light brown to purple streaks running through the whiteness of it, but if the streaks are numerous and dark brown to black in color; no good. If the inside is brown or grey, NO GOOD. If you touch the inside and it is soft, put it down! It should be very firm to the touch. It is important that your Mandioca root be as fresh as possible because grocery stores charge a LOT for them, and most workers probably have no idea what's good or not, so it is entirely up to you to figure it out if you want your Mandioca experience to be pleasant. Buying about 3-4 roots will be a suitable amoung for feeding 3-5 people.
With all of this said, you may also be able to buy Mandioca already peeled and washed from your local International market. Ask them if they sell frozen Yucca Root/Mandioca/Cassava. A lot of Mexican Stores will have it, too. It will always be foind in the frozen section because once the roots are peeled, they must stay refrigerated/frozen. They will mostly likely be in an air tight pack, which is the best way to buy them anyway.
So now that you know what Mandioca is, I will describe what it tastes like, and will tell you the easiest way to experience it for the first time. It is extremely similar to a potato, except it is more fiberous. And that is really it. Mandioca does not taste as starchy. Mandioca is a food all in itself in the sense that you can make a million things with it. In Brazil people will grate the mandioca then submerge it in water, then squeeze the water from the mandioca to produce a natural watery paste, which is dried and used as flour in baking. Amazing stuff. Brazil is HUGE in gluten free foods because of their ability to use mandioca flour in almost anything that would normally call for flour. This is how they are able to make the infamous "pao de queijo" or cheese bread. They go on to make biscuits, cakes, puddings, candies, and just, tons of other delicious recipes using mandioca. But the easiest way to enjoy Mandioca, is just to simply boil it. It is served with salt. People also like to add lime or butter to it. I love to put salt homemade hot sauce on mine. Leftover mandioca can be cut up and fried as a side dish or appetizer... it is DEE-LISH! (Popular at bars because it is awesome with beer), and a must for BBQ. Eat a bite of mandioca with a bite of meat... MMMMMMhhmmm!
How to enjoy Mandioca in its simplest form:
- Buy the mandioca (yucca root, cassava)
- Peel wax and hard covering off of reveal white to yellow colored flesh
- Rinse well
- Cut, into 2-3 inch chunks
- Place into a pot, completely submerged in water
- Place on high heat and boil for close to an hour or until color darkens and it is very easy to stick a fork inside of it. The softer the better. If you have a pressure cooker, use that... it will cut cooking time in half.
- There is a hard chord that runs through the center of each root, be mindful of it. It's not really edible.
- Serve alongside meat and salad, or anything really. Sprinkle salt on your mandioca and enjoy!
- Try it also with a squirt of lime or a dab of butter.
- After having properly prepared and boiled the mandioca, cut it into bite size pieces and coat the pieces in a beaten egg. (This is optional... you don't really have to)
- Put oil to fry until hot, then add the mandioca pieces and fry until golden and crispy on all sides.
- serve with a dash of salt and lime (the lime is soooo good with fried mandioca)
- Makes a great compliment to beer