Author Notes: Once you've tasted taro, there's no going back! It resembles and has the texture of a potato but it has an inherent sweetness and nuttiness that really rivals( or exceeds!) the wonderful flavors of potato. Once you've found a source for purple taro, the hard part is over. (Most Chinese, Korean and Spanish markets) It is very easy to work with, just like potato, and it doesn't turn brown after being cut.
I fell in love with taro through dim sum many years ago. The taro dimsum I most love is shrimp patties coated with the taro equivalent of potato stix, and fried. The crunchy nuttiness of that coating is addictive! So I knew I wanted to play with that element. I also wanted to showcase the unique sweet nutty taro flavor of creamy mashed taro, without herbs or spices. So I added some shiitakes and ham and scallion to the mashed taro and coated the pancakes with 'taro stix'. These taro pancakes would make an excellent side dish for grilled fish, pork or poultry entrees.
It is fascinating how many cuisines use taro. In Hawaii it is the famous staple, Poi. While it is mostly used in Pacific Island and South East Asian countries,I even found recipes for it in Irani cuisine! For those gardeners out there, taro is the tuber of plants in the 'Elephant Ears' family, Colocasia, and its leaves are also delicious. Taro root is only edible after being cooked. It lasts a long time when refrigerated.
- LE BEC FIN
Serves 2-3; makes 5-6 cakes
- 7 ounces purple taro root* (only the purple; it has flecks of maroon throughout the flesh)
- 1/4 cup duck fat, melted (or goose fat,pork fat or butter)
- 3 tablespoons scallions (or ramp bulbs or spring onions) sliced thinly and minced, white and green parts both
- 3-4 ounces sliced and sauteed shiitake mushrooms, or peeled Gulf shrimp, just barely cooked through, cut up
- 1/4 cup canadian bacon or ham ,chopped in 1/3 " dice
- 3 egg whites, whisked til foamy
- 3 tablespoons tapioca starch(or cornstarch)
- 1 ounce julienned taro (paper-thin strips cut with vegetable peeler and then julienned into 1/16" x 2" matchsticks)
- optional 15 green leaves of ramps or scallions ,opened up, flattened and steamed til pliable
- canola oil for cooking
- optional potato flour**or tapioca flour or cornstarch
- Peel and slice the taro in 1/2" slices. Place in a single layer in a steamer and steam about 20-30 minutes til very soft and tender. While hot, mash with a potato masher (not a food processor which would make them gluey.) They should be moist and creamy. If not, steam longer (even if they're partially mashed.) They should be a beautiful rich purple color!
- Add scallions through ham. Now, steamed taro moisture can vary. If your mash is pretty thick/dry, add all the above duck fat thoroughly. Then whisk tapioca starch into egg whites and add this to the taro. But if your mash is wet and pretty loose after the duck fat, just add half of the egg white mixture. If mixture is still too loose to form cakes, add 1 Tablespoon of potato flour (preferably) or tapioca flour or cornstarch, to thicken.
- Form into patties 1/2" thick. " For pretty", but completely optional, wrap the scallion or ramp green around the patty to enclose it in a neat circle.Use two if needed; overlap them and secure with a skewer. Place taro cakes in pan with a thin layer of hot oil. Press taro julienne into top of each one.Fry a few minutes til brown, turn over and cook a few minutes til brown.Remove skewers before serving.
- ** Note: I use a little potato flour in biscuits and other baked goods for a lighter product. It is also tasty in sauces/gravies, so it's a useful thing to have around.