Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kappa (Yuca) with Onion Chutney

Kappa with Onion Chutney

I moved to Chicago over a decade ago without knowing a soul. Early on, my attempts to build a social circle fell flat. My neighbors kept to themselves, and my colleagues remained in their cubes until the end of day and then sped home. I took a flurry of classes (from Senegalese dance to swing) in search of a human connection, but ended up eating many meals alone. 

Chopping and skinning yuca

On one such occasion, I popped into a modestly furnished Colombian restaurant. It was filled with immigrants from Latin American so I decided to stay. A waiter greeted me in Spanish and seated me in the thick of things. The menu included a mix of meat dishes paired with red beans, fried sweet plantains, white potatoes, and yuca. When the waiter returned, I asked him about the yuca. He explained that it was like potatoes in somewhat broken English.
   Adding water and oil to make the chutney
Crush the chopped onions and chiles

My plate arrived piled high with a collection of fried carbs. Happily, when I bit into the yuca I was transformed to the comfort of my parent’s kitchen where we refer to the soft, slightly sweet root as kappa, and eat it dipped in onion chutney.


Serves 4

This is my favorite Kerala-style kappa preparation. The toughest part is peeling and chopping the kappa. The rest is a breeze!


2 1/2 pounds yuca
2 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
3/4 teaspoon finely chopped serrano chili
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 1/2 tablespoons water
5 curry leaves (optional)


To prepare the kappa:

Thoroughly wash the kappa. Place it on a cutting board and chop it into 3 inch pieces using a cleaver. 

Place a piece of the kappa on the cutting board. Tap it with a chef’s knife to make a slit in the skin. Rock the knife left and right to pry away a portion of the skin. Work the knife under the skin and slice it off, following the curve of the root. Repeat with the rest of the kappa.

Slice each chunk of kappa in half. 

Fill a large pot with water and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the salt. Bring to a boil.

Add the kappa and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes.

To prepare the chutney:

Place the onion, serrano chili, vegetable oil, water, curry leaves, and remaining salt in a mortar. Pound it with the mortar to release the liquid from the onion and combine all of the ingredients.

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