Kappa is the only dish that brings joy to my life. Kappa, AKA Tapioca. Some call it Cassava. Full of carbs and Oops, no nutritional value. That is a simple truth; however, if you make Kappa in Malabar style and have it with Spicy Fish Curry, your heart goes sprinting up and down, and you keep coming back for more. Give me Kappa for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I will take it gladly without any qualms. That’s just me.
In Kerala, a tropical coast in the south-west of India Tapioca is a staple food in our cuisine. Once or twice a week, at home we have Tapioca for breakfast. With afternoon tea, we have Tapioca chips and even better at times, boiled Tapioca with shallots and birds-eye chilli chutney with or without Yoghurt. Sometimes for dinner we have mashed Tapioca with meat or fish. It’s just delicious.
The Great Famine of 1876 in India contributed significantly to how Tapioca came to existence in today’s Kerala culture. The then Maharaja of Tranvancore, Vishakham Thirunal Rama Varma, introduced Kappa as a replacement for rice between 1880 -1885. To beat the hunger, people vastly cultivated Tapioca, which helped them through the hard years. Even today, most Kerala farmers and select households still produce Tapioca for sale and for personal daily use.
In fact, Tapioca is native to Brazil. It comes from the native plant, Cassava. It is a starchy plant grown and reaped throughout Brazil, Thailand, and Nigeria. People in North and South America, West Indies, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe all have Cassava in their cuisine.
Let’s find out the different ways people around the world prepare and enjoy Cassava.
Kappa Vevichathu (Kerala, India)
In two ways, people enjoy Kappa in this region. The first way it is prepared is where tapioca skin is removed, chopped into cubes, boiled in water with salt to taste, and set aside. Next, mix the boiled cubes with a ground paste containing grated coconut, green chilies, turmeric powder, cumin seeds, garlic, and shallots, and cook for five minutes. Some like it mashed, and some like it a little chunky. Finish it by heating coconut oil in a pan, splutter mustard seeds and frying curry leaves. In Kerala, this dish is served with Fish Curry or Beef Curry.
The second way it is prepared is where tapioca skin is removed, diced course lengthy, boiled in water with salt to taste, and set aside. Then, people enjoy it alone or with Kanthari mulaku Chutney/BirdsEye Chilli Chutney.
Casabe (Central America, Latin America & The Caribbean)
Casabe is made from a single component, Just Cassava. It contains nothing else, giving it a tough and crunchy consistency. Casabe means flat bread.
To prepare Casabe, fresh Cassava is peeled, grated very finely, pressed to yank all of its liquid, and hung for several hours until it forms a sort of cassava paste, from which later patties are made. The cakes are then flatted and cooked in a large hot pan until the dampness has evaporated and the patty is crunchy. Finally, it is broken up and eaten as crackers, dipped in fantastic.
Saka Saka (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Saka Saka, also called Cassava leaf soup, is a Congolese dish. But, no, it is not a soup but a type of stew made with fish or any meat of choice with Cassava leaves. Time management is critical in the preparation of this dish, which is also called Pondu.
How is it made? In a reasonably medium to a large pot, add onions, your choice of fish or meat, and season with salt. Simmer until tender, and this leaves you with two cups of stock. Separate the fish or meat from the stock and set it aside. Again a large pot, heat the oil and saute onions and crayfish for a few minutes, and then add more fish or meat(not the meat or fish we separated earlier from the stock water), preferably smoked beef or turkey or chicken or fish. Next, add peanut butter, pour in the stock water we set aside earlier, and cook for 10 minutes. To this mix, we add Cassava leaves (in case it’s not available, spinach leaves are substituted) and cook for nearly 30 minutes and at the last phase, add shrimp and cook for another 4 minutes. Saka Saka is served with steaming hot rice.
Simple and satisfying is the only way to describe Fufu, the famous African Swallow food. It is filling and an easy dish prepared in every West African household.
Remove the tapioca skin, chop into cubes and boil till tender. Mix it in a blender to make it a smooth paste. Transfer to a pot and stir energetically until a thick, smooth semi-solid paste. Shape it into balls, wrap it in plastic foils to retain the dampness, and set it aside. Fufu is eaten with your right hand. Pinch a little bit from the ball and have it with flavourful stew or soups. Fufu is not chewed. It’s swallowed, definitely a dish not to miss.
Sago Gula Melaka / Sago Pudding (Indonesia and Malaysia)
This sweet pudding is made by mixing Tapioca pearls with water or milk and adding sugar. Sago Gula Melaka is a Tapioca pudding made by boiling pearl sago in water and then serving it with syrup of palm sugar (known as Gula Melaka) and coconut milk. It is simple and tasty.
No matter where you are in the world, Cassava is loved. Once a poor man’s food, it’s highly sought after and the most fulfilling food. Yes, it’s full of carbs, yet, it’s uncomplicated. One can spice it up based on ones liking, and it can be feasted with full flavours or not. People of all ages love it. Next time you want something different, try a restaurant near you that specialises in African cuisine or order a Sogu Pudding after your meal from your Asian diner. Try Malabari cooking or Kerala Restaurant and enjoy Cassava at its many best. Did you know the black pearls in your favourite Bubble tea… it’s Tapioca? Check it out . They are delicious.
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