Fry

Taro Cakes with Shiitakes,Ham, and Scallions

April 11, 2012
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

Ingredients
  • 7 ounces purple taro root* (only the purple; it has flecks of maroon throughout the flesh)
  • 1/4 cup duck fat, melted (or goose or bacon fat or butter)
  • 3 tablespoons scallions 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
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. Form into patties 1/3- 1/2" thick and 2" diameter. " 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.
  4. ** 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.

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I am always on the lookout for innovative recipes, which is why I am just ga-ga over my recently- discovered Food52 with its amazingly innovative and talented contributors. My particular eating passions are Japanese, Indian, Mexican; with Italian and French following close behind. Turkish/Arabic/Mediterranean cuisines are my latest culinary fascination. My desert island ABCs are actually 4 Cs: citrus, cumin, cilantro, and cardamom. I am also finally indulging in learning about food history; it gives me no end of delight to learn how and when globe artichokes came to the U.S., and how and when Jerusalem artichokes went from North America to Europe. And that the Americas enabled other cuisines to become glorious. I mean where would those countries be without: Corn, Tomatoes, Chiles,Peanuts, Dried Beans, Pecans, Jerusalem Artichokes??! While I am an omnivore, I am, perhaps more than anything, fascinated by the the world of carbohydrates, particularly the innovative diversity of uses for beans, lentils and grains in South Indian and other cuisines. Baking gives me much pleasure, and of all the things I wish would change in American food, it is that we would develop an appreciation for sweet foods that are not cloyingly sweet, and that contain more multigrains. (Wouldn't it be fantastic to have a country of great bakeries instead of the drek that we have in the U.S.?!) I am so excited by the level of sophistication that I see on Food52 and hope to contribute recipes that will inspire you like yours do me. I would like to ask a favor of all who do try a recipe of mine > Would you plse write me and tell me truthfully how it worked for you and/or how you think it would be better? I know many times we feel that we don't want to hurt someone's feelings, but. i really do want your honest feedback because it can only help me improve the recipe.Thanks so much.