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I spent the summer of 2012 in the Bateys of the Dominican Republic, volunteering for a small nonprofit, living and working with an amazing group of youth. As always in my travels, I discovered a new favorite food: arepitas de yuca. My host mom saw how much I liked them that sometimes she would make me an entire dinner of those suckers. And yes, I ate them all. Every. Last. One. And I have no regrets (but maybe a few extra pounds).

I keep meaning to recreate them at home, but have just never taken the time. I watched how my host mom would hand grate them, pounds and pounds of yuca, and I think I just never really wanted to put in the effort…

But then one day, exploring an Asian market nearby my new home in San Jose, I found frozen grated cassava (yuca), and decided, well, since I didn’t have to do the work, then it was totally worth a shot.

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I looked up some recipes just to jog my memory, but I saw that most of them included anise. My host mom definitely never used anise, and I wanted to stick as close to her recipe as I could. While I’m certainly pleased with the outcome, I don’t think they taste like the ones she made me. Just like the Venezuelan arepas I have here stateside never taste like ones I had there. Or no one else’s pecan pie tastes as good as my mom’s. It’s all about the experience, I think, and the emotions that certain foods stir in us. It’s not just about the ingredients, but who made the meal and what you were feeling then…sorry, tangent.

Anywho, it’s good stuff, you should try it.

Ingredients:

1 pound of grated yuca (cassava), frozen or fresh
1 egg
2-3 tablespoons of milk (I used coconut)
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups of canola or vegetable oil, for frying

While the oil is heating in a deep skillet, combine all the ingredients in a bowl, with enough milk to make a moist “batter” that holds together when formed into patties. Then do just that, form the yuca into thin patties, about four inches in diameter, makes about a dozen. Place on a paper towel to absorb extra liquid until the oil is ready.

Arepitas de Yuca

Fry on each side until golden brown, about four to five minutes each.

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Remove to another paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

Arepitas de Yuca

I served with rice and beans and fresh avocado.

Arepitas de Yuca

They’re great fresh or microwaved the next day (might just be me, I like them soft, the way I usually had them in the Dominican Republic). And these are maybe a little sweeter than some prefer, but that’s also the way I remember them.

The way I will always remember the summer I spent there, an amazing place that taught me so much about myself.

Batey 1, Dominican Republic, 2012

Batey 1, Dominican Republic, 2012

Cooking up an American dish of fried clams

Cooking up an American dish of fried clams

Playing baseball

Playing baseball

Working on my domino game

Working on my domino game

May we all have experiences that change us for the better, with memories of good people and good food to hold with us always.

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