Make Aipim Frito at Home
Yuca is a shrubby plant known more commonly in Brazil as manioc or cassava. It is harvested for its starchy root, which is eaten as-is or processed to form tapioca/manioc flour. After rice and maize, yuca is the largest source of carbohydrates in the Tropics.
History of Yuca Cultivation
The cultivation of yuca likely goes back many thousands of years, although hard evidence of its domestication dates to only about 1400 years ago. Proof of its importance as a crop during this time was found at a Mayan site called Joya de Ceren in El Salvador.
At this point, it seems it was a major food source for both Southern Mesoamerica and northern South America. There is also evidence to support its use in the diet of the Taino people of the Caribbean (yuca is, in fact, a Taino word).
By the late 15th century, cassava was being produced in high yields due to its drought resistance and advances in agriculture, namely crop rotation. European colonists initially rejected the use of cassava and meal produced from it, believing it to be bad for their health.
When the Spanish and Portuguese were unable to successfully cultivate wheat in the tropical climate, however, cassava became an acceptable substitute. It was introduced to their other colonies in Asia and Africa, where it remains an important crop to this day.
Yuca vs Yucca
Yuca, with one “c,” is the shrub in the spurge family whose root is used as a foodstuff. “Yucca” is an entirely different plant, although it is still a shrub. It is a member of the asparagus family and native to hot areas of the Americas and the Caribbean.
It is thought that the similarity in names of the two distinct species arose from Carl Linnaeus, the famed Swedish botanist, who accidentally named the “yucca” plant after the Taino word for cassava (“yuca”).
Like cassava, yucca is edible. However, it is the flowers and stems, not the root, that are eaten. Overall, yucca is predominantly used in landscaping for its dramatic appearance and large size.
How is Cassava Used?
Yuca, aka cassava, can be used in a variety of ways. The starchy root can be used fresh, dried, or powdered. All versions of cassava feature heavily in Brazilian cuisine. It is a primary ingredient in pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) and is frequently employed as a crispy, toasted topping (farofa).
Fried cassava is also popular as a street food in Brazil, where it is known as aipim frito. These yuca fries are every bit as delicious as potato fries, and they are very simple to make. They are a satisfying snack or a great accompaniment to any meal, especially churrasco.
Can I Make Yuca Fries in the Oven?
Yes, yuca crisps up beautifully when baked. If you prefer to make your aipim frito in the oven, simply preheat your oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit, toss in oil and a little salt, and cook until golden (about 25 minutes). You may want to flip them halfway to avoid one side getting too dark.
Yuca Fries Recipe (Aipim Frito)
3 lbs fresh yuca
3 cups vegetable oil
Salt to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Peel the skin from the yuca roots and trim off each end.
- Cut the peeled yuca into 3 inch rounds.
- Place yuca rounds in the boiling water and cook until fork tender, about 30 minutes.
- When the yuca is tender, drain the rounds and let them cool until you can touch them.
- Cut out the hard, center root of each yuca round, then trim the remaining yuca into sticks.
- Make sure the yuca sticks are nice and dry. You can pat them dry with paper towels.
- Heat oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan over medium high. Caution: oil should not be smoking, just hot enough to sizzle when frying.
- Fry your yuca sticks in batches until crisp and golden brown. Drain on paper towels and season with a little more salt.
- Enjoy with your choice of condiments (try this creamy garlic sauce!)
What to Eat With Yuca Fries
Fried yuca goes well with almost anything. It is crispy and salty on the outside, creamy and lightly sweet on the inside. We suggest pairing it with your favorite churrasco dish, like smoked sausages or flame-roasted picanha.
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