Paraguayans eat a lot of yucca… they call it mandioca and it’s a daily staple in their diet.
I was forewarned by my mom and other people who’ve been to the Yoga Center in Paraguay that I would have mandioca coming out of my ears by the end of our trip. To be honest… we ate mandioca in various ways, but I never felt overwhelmed by it.
One of my favorite ways to have yucca while we were in Paraguay was in a fritter form. Girl is Latin and we LOOOVE all things fried, no?
We made these as a form of karma yoga to help out an orphanage. My friend Ester and her husband help out this orphanage regularly and the organizer told them a few days prior that their pantry was empty and there are nothing for them to feed the kids with. So Ester and Ferreira rallied a few of us visiting them in Coronel Oviedo to help out the kids. We made over 200 of these fritters… we only kept a few for ourselves and the rest was given to the kids.
They’re delicious. This is an adaptation of a local dish in Paraguay… the original name is in Guaraní, their native Paraguayan tongue. It’s traditionally made with ground beef but our version uses textured soy protein. The locals say the secret is in how you season it, because none of the non-vegetarians were able to tell the difference.
We did this recipe in very large scale as you will appreciate by the pictures… this is my scaled down version. You can certainly freeze the extra tortas and fry at a later occasion. Thanks to Ester and Ferreira for the recipe…
YUCCA AND SOY FRITTERS
4 large yucca roots, peeled and scrubbed clean 1 cup of dry textured soy protein, soaked in 2 -3 cups of filtered water 1 green bell pepper, cut into pieces 1 red bell pepper, cut into pieces 1 bunch of scallions, roots removed and cut in thirds 8-10 garlic cloves, peeled 1 ½ cups of soy sauce About 3-4 cups of fine cormeal flour Canola Oil to fry the fritters in
- First we boil the yuccas… after the yucca pieces are well-peeled, cut, scrubbed clean making sure the inner core with the tough thread removed, you put them in a pot with plenty of salted water to boil.
2. Cover the pot while boiling and reduce the heat once it’s reached a rolling boiling point to prevent the bottom pieces from scorching. Boil the yucca pieces until they’re fork tender.
3. After the yucca is cooked, allow it to cool off and dry out a bit over clean kitchen cloths or towels.
4. While the yucca cooks we prepare the sofrito and the soy protein…
5. Using a hand grinder we make the sofrito by mixing the green and red peppers, the garlic cloves and the scallions. Using the hand grinder gives you a coarser texture than using a food processor. But if you don’t have a grinder, pulsing the veggies in your food processor will do just fine. Pulse until the mixture is well ground but not liquidy yet. Set aside.
6. The soy protein should be left to soak in the water for about 30 minutes. After it has soaked for that long and it’s now soft and tripled in size, drain and squeeze it dry. I use a fine mesh strainer and squeeze it using my fist. It does not have to be bone-dry, but it should not be wet and dripping.
7. Place the dried-out soy protein in a large bowl. Add about 1 cup of the sofrito mixture you created. Save any leftover unless it’s just a small amount and just add it up. Add the soy sauce to season and mix everything well. Set aside.
8. Now that the yucca has cooled off, we grind it using the hand grater. This is a labor of love, but you’ll be rewarded for your efforts afterwards. It’s not so bad doing a smaller batch like this one. But we made it for 200+ fritters and we had to take turns grinding yucca. So don’t be surprised with your arm hurts a bit afterwards.
9. After the yucca is ground, add it to the soy mixture. You can add it in batches while you’re grinding it. The yucca is very starchy and it’ll mix into the soy better if it’s just ground. The best way to mix this is using your very clean hands. Mix together the yucca and the soy until you have a homogeneous mixture that’s more yucca than soy.
10. Add about 1 cup of the fine cornmeal and mix well once again. We’re ready to make the fritters…
11. Prepare a tray with some cornmeal in the bottom. The mixture is sticky and the cornmeal will prevent them from sticking too much to the tray or your hands.
12. Using a generous amount of corn flour, create tennis-sized balls. Use plenty of corn flour… don’t be afraid to use it. After a ball is created, pat it into a patty. Set aside on the corn flour dusted tray. Keep making fritters until you run out of mixture.
13. In a large skillet filled with about 1 inch with oil over medium high heat, we fry the fritters. After you put them in, leave them until they develop a crust on one side. They’re soft and they’ll break apart if you move them around before once side if crispy. Sometimes it helps if you do not crowd the pan too much and if you spoon some of the hot oil over the fritter so that the top side hardens just a tad bit before flipping.
14. Flip them carefully using a spatula and fry golden brown on the other side.
15. Drain over a clean paper towel over a tray… wait a bit until they cool off to take a bite.
These fritters are a bit of a labor of love… but they’re well worth it. If you’re Paraguayan and know the name in Guaraní of this fritter, please share it with us in the comment section. GRACIAS!!!