Kerala in the world map is referred to as “God’s Own country” (I doubt how much this applies in the current scenario). It was one of the scenic place with lush greenery and natural beauty. It also associates with coconuts and spices. I would like to make a small correction here for those of you who do not know our association with Cassava or Tapioca. Though its not connected deeply as coconut is, but I’m sure anyone with a nodding acquaintance would have heard about the famous Kappa and Meen (fish) curry combination. I’ve heard from my mother, that working class people and poor people in olden times used to have tapioca three times a day as this was a energy giving food due to its high starch content.
Some of the common names include manioc, or mandioca in Brazil, manihot, tapioca and yuca. In my mother tongue its simply known as Kappa, Maracheeni, kolli kizhangu, poola and the list goes on. So was this originated in Kerala?? Though Tapioca and Kerala are inextricably linked, its a bit disheartening to say this this root tubers origin travels all the way to Brazil and Paraguay. History says that this tropical, herbaceous, perennial plant spread to different parts of the world by Columbus. Likewise, Cassava is a most forgiving and adaptable plant. It grows well in humid tropical conditions, but can also withstand draughts. Cassava does well in poor soil where little else will grow and requires little care and protects itself against predators by means of poisonous latex, which flows particularly profusely in the leaves.
The caloric value of Cassava tubers are very high indeed and it also provides vitamins and minerals, but it is insufficient as a sole source of nutrition, as it is almost completely devoid of protein. Cassava has nearly twice the calories than that of potatoes and perhaps one of the highest value calorie food for any tropical starch rich tubers and roots. 100 g root provides 160 calories. Their calorie value mainly comes from sucrose which accounts for more than 69% of total sugars. Amylose (16-17%) is another major complex carbohydrate sources. The leaves are also edible and are a much richer source of protein, but you should cook them thoroughly in order to render the prussic acid harmless. They are, to some extent, used as a pot herb. The young leaves are rich in vitamin B, C, Carotene, Calcium and Iron. (Inputs courtesy: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/cassava.html)
There are different varieties of Cassava and different uses too. Cassava tubers are made into fries, stew-fries, soups, and savory dishes all over the tropic regions. We can use Cassava flour to make bread, cake, cookies, etc. in several Caribbean islands.
Starch rich yuca (manioc) pulp is sieved to prepare white pearls (tapioca-starch), popular as Sabudana in India, Pakistan and Srilanka. The pearls are used in sweet pudding, savory fritters, sabudana-kichri, papad, etc. Additionally, it also acts as a thickening agent in the food industry. But in Kerala itis mainly served as meals with fish, meat or with chutneys or can be just had simply boiled with a cup of black coffee. The preparations are numerous. Boil with turmeric and temper or cook it along with grated coconut or with protein curries. The spicy preparation of cassava is a speciality of the Toddy shops along the length and breadth of the Kerala which is the tastiest of the lot.
Cleaning the Cassava:
The skin is fairly thick. Cut the cassava into 3 or 4 pieces and then give a cut on the skin diagonally and from the cut with the edge of your knife poke the skin open. This way you will be able to peel off the skin faster and at one go.
The recipe I’m posting is the one which we often prepare at my house. This is usually made with sardines. Since my inmates doesn’t welcome the bone factor at all, I thought the next best thing is to go for Mackerel. By the way, these fishes are the widely used ones in our region especially for the Kappa. I’ve used fresh tapioca for this. Those who find it difficult to clean and peel the fresh ones can go for the frozen ones which might not be as tasty as the fresh produce. It is difficult for me also to clean this tuber as I’ve rarely done this in my home (My parent’s home:)) still I go for the trouble as this is more palatable and healthier. We should decide the spice level for this dish.
In an earthen pot, put the cassava. Add half litre water.
Similarly, the fish on the top of the cassava.Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder on the top and keep for cooking.
Then, grind all the ingredients under dressing to a fine smooth paste adding the water.
Cook till done. Remove the fish from the pot.
Once cooled, separate the bones and flesh and shred and keep ready.
And now, mash up the tapioca adding enough salt. Let it simmer.
Add the shredded fish now and combine generously.
Pour the dressing now and mix thoroughly. Adjust the seasoning now.
Keep the flame on medium and allow it to simmer for a couple of minutes.
Finally add the curry leaves and a dash of coconut oil and put on the lid and keep for 7 minutes.
Serve hot !!!