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Bento Recipes: Cassava fritters


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Cassava hash brownsWhat you'll need:

    A pound of cassava (yuca, manioc) root. About one largish root will do.
    2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
    1 egg
    1 small onion
    1 tsp of sugar
    1/4 tsp of salt
    vegetable oil for frying
    butter or other seasoning as desired

First peel the root, and discard the yelowish core if you can distinguish it. (It is a thin, tough line running down the exact center.) Then cut it into chunks and boil it until tender. Not just firm-but-tender, like a potato, but really tender, because you're going to be mashing this stuff up. When it's soft, drain it, remove the core if you didn't get it before (it'll be easy to find if you look for it) and then put it in a bowl and mash it up with a potato masher. Keep at it until it's smooth or your arms get sore. Next, dice the onion, add everything but the oil and butter to the mashed root, and mix it up well.

Heat up a frying pan to medium high. While that's warming shape the mixture into cakes about 1/2 inch thick and however big you want the servings to be. (I suggest making 6 to 8 cakes out of a batch this size. If you're making these for bento purposes, you can shape them to fit your box.) Your hands will get really sticky and messy during this stage, as the stuff is more like potato salad than dough. However, washing your hands after shaping each cake, and molding them with wet hands the same way you shape onigiri, will make it much easier. After you finish that, oil the pan and put down one or more cakes, depending on how many will fit. Let it cook for a few minutes, then turn it. (The bottom will have dark brown spots; that's all right. If they're too dark or burnt-looking, turn down the heat a tad.) Press the fritters down with your spatula and let them cook for a few minutes. When they're done they will have a crust and not inclined to bend or fall apart at all. You may need to turn them a few more times, which is fine. You can also turn down the heat and let them cook, covered, for a few minutes longer.

When these are done, serve them hot with melted butter, or whatever other topping you like.

One note about cassava - you must cook it. Not that you'd want to eat it raw, but the cassava root contains chemicals (specifically, cyanogenic glucosides) that can be harmful unless cooked. Cooking will neutralize the toxicity. Don't let this frighten you - if it were truly dangerous, I doubt that Kroger would carry it in the produce section! Just don't munch on it raw.