Malanga root is a dense, starchy root vegetable with a tough exterior and off-white to yellow flesh, similar in appearance to taro root. It has absorbent flesh and responds well to several cooking techniques, most notably frying, baking and boiling. Fried malanga has a golden-brown, crisp exterior surrounding a soft, light interior, redolent of a well-made chip or french fry. Substituting diced and boiled malanga for potatoes puts an exotic twist on potato salad, and pureeing the root makes a hearty accompaniment to bold, meat-based entrees.
Mix together 1 quart of water and 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a food storage container or a large bowl. Peel the skin from the malanga root and discard it.
Cut the malanga root in half. Then, cut the root to the desired size and place the pieces in the lemon juice-water mixture. Try to make the pieces similar in size so they cook evenly.
Strain the diced malanga root. Place it in a saucepan and cover it with cold water. Season the water to taste, as you would potatoes or other starchy vegetables.
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Simmer the malanga root until fork tender, which takes approximately 30 minutes.
Peel the malanga root and cut to the desired dimensions and shapes. These include batons, which are similar to french fries and disks, which are similar to scalloped potatoes. Whatever shape you choose, do not cut the pieces larger than 1/2 inch thick. Place the pieces in a bowl in a mixture of 1 quart water and 1 teaspoon lemon juice.
Fill a deep 4-quart cast-iron skillet or other heavy-bottomed pan with 3 inches of peanut or canola oil. Attach a candy or oil thermometer to it and set over medium-high heat.
Heat the oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and adjust the heat as needed to maintain the temperature. Remove the malanga root and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the cut malanga root in the oil and fry until golden-brown, approximately 3 minutes.
Remove the malanga root from the oil and place it on a plate lined with paper towels. Transfer the vegetable to a mixing bowl while still hot and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Peel and dice the malanga root in uniform pieces. Place the pieces in a mixture of 1 quart water and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice immediately after cutting.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain the malanga root and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the pieces in a mixing bowl and coat them with a thin layer of olive oil.
Season the malanga pieces with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and toss them to coat. Arrange the malanga root in an even layer on a baking sheet and place it on the middle rack of the oven.
Bake the malanga pieces until they pierce easily with a paring knife, approximately 25 minutes.
Cutting the malanga into smaller pieces will help it cook more quickly.
Avoid overcooking malanga because it will disintegrate if it is cooked too long.
- The Professional Chef; The Culinary Institute of America
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Florida Food Fare: Malanga
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.