So, here’s another yuca recipe that happens to be one of my favorites: yuca fritters – carimañolas. But, before I go on, the correct pronunciation for this tasty tuber is you-kah, not yuck-ah(yucca). One is a root vegetable, the other a desert plant. Two similar spellings? Yes! This is where the similarities end. Botanically they are worlds apart. Yuca looks a little bit like a caveman club, well, just a little. Yucca, on the other hand, is a perennial shrub with dangerous looking “sword like” leaves.
So, exactly what are carimañolas? Well in short, they are empanadas’ torpedo-shape cousin; think Hindenburg. I know I like to use these family analogies in my food descriptions. They are made with yuca that is boiled, mashed and then stuffed. Although the filling for carimañolas is very similar to the one you would use for an empanada, the overall taste and texture are very different. Now you might be tempted to want to eat these with a sauce. Resist that urge!! These babies are great just the way they are. Carimañolas are often stuffed with savory meat or chicken or with cheese. My favorite filling? Meat!!! For my veggie loving friends, I am sure there are some great vegetarian fillings out there.
Growing up in Panama where carimañolas are very popular, I often enjoyed them for breakfast or for an afternoon snack with a cup of strong coffee. Carimañolas are also popular in neighboring Colombia. By the way, both countries claim ownership to this delicious tuber treat. This comes with no surprise, since the two countries share a border.
Carimañolas are a typical street food. Everyone has their favorite vendor of course. Being a street food, sometimes the meat is, well, kind of scarce. I said scarce, not scary! So, this being said, locals sometimes ask the vendor, half jokingly “there’s meat inside, right?” It’s all in good fun, and no one gets offended. It’s a very laid back culture!
The perfect texture for a carimañola is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. This is why they are best enjoyed right out of the fryer. They are kind of similar to a potato croquette or a Puerto Rican dish called “papas rellenas” or stuffed potatoes. Yes, there is a recipe for this in the works. I need to have a chat with my Puerto Rican friend. Also, they are similar to alcapurrias, another Puerto Rican dish. However, these are made with another tuber called malanga and green plantain. The filling is also a bit different.
The trick to creating the perfect texture? Cooking the yuca properly, prior to assembling. How long is good enough? Well… you should be able to easily mash it with a potato masher. As a cooking tip: I like to reserve a little bit of the cooking water just in case you need to make the dough more pliable if needed.
I like to use the pre-cooked frozen yuca, it helps save the step of peeling the yuca which can sometimes be cumbersome. I also use my own recaito recipe, a cilantro based mixture essential in Latin American cooking. You can make up a batch and freeze into ice cubes, which is what I do.
If you love to try new ethnic foods here are some interesting dishes that are very easy. These are some of my most popular ethnic dishes, their history and ingredients to make at home.
Cuban Ropa Vieja: A true comfort food of slow cooked beef served over rice.
Recaito: This is the ingredient used in many Latin soups, stews and black beans.
Sofrito: You need to have this base ingredient for Latin style beans and shredded chicken.
Latin Style Black Beans: If you have never tried these you are missing out and they are so easy!
Yuca Fritters - Carimañolas
You will love this crunchy and creamy Latin treat! Carimañolas are a yuca dough filled with a tasty spiced meat mixture that is fried into a fitter. These are very popular in Panamá and Colombia. These are very similar to alcapurrias and papas rellenas.
- 1 1/2 lbs yuca 1 bag frozen yuca
- 2 tsp Kosher salt
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 Tbsp flour
Note: Save 1/2 cup water from boiling the yuca.
Oil for frying. (canola oil works well)
To prepare the yuca: In a large pot boil enough water to cover the yuca. Cook for about 15-20 minutes. When the yuca is tender enough, transfer to a large bowl.
Split open the yuca pieces in half and remove the fibrous threads that run down the middle.
Begin mashing with a potato masher.
Add salt, and butter, and 1/4 cup of the reserved water.
Mix in the egg.
Next add the flour and continue mixing until you have a smooth dough.
Place the dough on a lightly flour surface and cover with a dishtowel until ready to use.
In a small bowl mix all the spices.
In a skillet over medium heat saute the onion, and garlic. Add the meat, spices and brown. Stir in the tomato, tomato paste, and recaito. Mix well.
Allow to cool slightly.
To make the fritters: When the dough is cool enough to handle, pinch off a piece and roll into a 2" ball.
Flatten on the palm of your hand ,and place a small amount of filling in the middle. Close up and
form in the shape of a torpedo. Set on a baking sheet until ready to use.
Fry in hot oil until golden brown.