Recollecting Cassava


photo courtesy of Phamfatale

It goes by a lot of names, and we used many of them. When we were talking to non-family, we called it yuca. At home, we called it manioc or a shortened version of cassava. Kuzzah! like something out of a Dickens novel. We called the stewed leaves "chaka voola," which in Malagasy translates to "lots of money".
I got thinking about a favorite dish of mine reading SAVEUR's latest issue (incidentally, about Sicily). Dorothy Irwin's cassava article on page 26 and Beth Kracklauer's "In the Saveur Kitchen" feature on page 94 covered impressive ground. The article isn't online yet, but let's just say there were a lot of italics, names of stews, tapiocas, grainy textural toppings... tempuras and fritters, sweet and savory. Fifteen percent of the world depends on yuca. And the rest might eat it just because.
At home, we prepared Gateau de Manioc, a custard cake solidified by eggs and starchy structure. The Filipino call their version of this cake Bibingka. It's a really simple recipe -- grated yuca, coconut milk, sugar, and perhaps some mutant young coconut. Some people add evaporated milk or butter, but we kept it relatively light. We also tended to steam, rather than bake it, so it took on a moist, pleasingly rubbery quality. Think of a very firm gelatin. It was like that. Sometimes I sliced thin and small domino-pieces. Other times I went for a steak of it.
I learned in the SAVEUR article that yuca contains twice as many carbs as a potato. No wonder I ate so much of it after high school track practice, straight out of the steaming tray, still cold from the fridge.