Also known as yuka or manioc, cassava is a root vegetable from South America that locals have been cultivating and eating for ages. Being the main food of indigenous people of Brazil, cassava was and is eaten in many forms and during the time of the great conquests the Portuguese were responsible for introducing this root in other countries around the world. Some varieties of cassava have high content of cyanide making them extremely poisonous so the indigenous people discovered that after they are harvest they have to be peeled, grated and passed through some kind of big straw sieve where the poisonous juice is then strained. The remaining grated cassava is cooked and stirred for several hours until it is transformed into flour, which is commercialised as plain or toasted. In addition, two types of starch, sweet and sour, can be obtained after the sedimentation of the cassava juices. Made with sour starch, beiju is a kind of crepe eaten all over Brazil (recipe coming soon!). When the starch is still moist, it can be spread onto a large hot pan, where it pops like popcorn resulting in tapioca form. Both cooked cassava and by-products are widely used in Brazil in savoury and sweet dishes. Cooked cassava is commonly served at lunchtime as a side dish, simply seasoned with salt or mashed. After being cooked it can also be deep-fried, it is frequently served in pubs and in the South, along with dried cod fritters, is the ultimate beer snack. Now, should I dare to say that cassava chips are better than potato chips? Frozen cassava is available from large Asian grocers.
1 kg frozen cassava, cooked as per pack instructions
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Freshly ground sea salt, to taste
Sliced spring onions, to serve (optional)
1. Drain the cooked cassava and allow to cool. Cut into 2 cm thick battons.
2. Line a large plate with paper towel. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan. To check if the oil is hot enough place a cube of bread and if it turns brown in 30 seconds the oil reached the right temperature. Fry the cassava chips in small batches for 3 to 5 minutes (turning them a couple of times) or until golden (do not overcrowd the pan). Drain and serve hot with a sprinkle of salt and spring onions, if you wish.