Yucca sticks, Yucca fries, yuquitas, or whatever you want to call them, are a great bar snack and found often in Peru and throughout Latin America. It’s often an alternative to French fries. Salsa Huancaína (pronounced wan-kay-eena) is the heart of this recipe and the best sauce I know of to pair with the almost flavorless yucca. It’s an extremely versatile sauce that can be used on fettuccine or more famously in the dish Papas a la Huancaína, which originated in the Peruvian mountain town of Huancayo and slathers the sauce over slices of boiled potatoes with hardboiled egg and olives.
RECIPE: Yuquitas (Fried Yucca)
·2 lb fresh yucca (cassava) or 1 1/2 lb frozen peeled yuca (not thawed)
·About 4 cups vegetable oil
·1/4 teaspoon salt
1.)Cut off the ends and then the entire waxy brown skin of the yucca.
2.)Cut the yucca into about 3 inch long pieces, 1/4 inch wide.
3.)Place yucca sticks into a 4 quart pot and cover with salted water.
4.)Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until yuca is tender when poked with a fork, about 20 to 30 minutes.
5.)Drain yucca and dry with a paper towel.
6.)Heat about 1 1/2 inches oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat until it registers 360-375°F on the thermometer.
7.)Fry yucca in batches, about 3-5 minutes per batch until golden brown.
8.)Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. (Return oil to 360°F between batches.) Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and serve with salsa huancaina on the side in a dipping cup. Garnish with a sprig of thyme. Serves 6.
RECIPE: Salsa Huancaina (Huancaina Sauce)
·5 fresh ají amarillo chile peppers (Peruvian Yellow Chile)
·2 garlic cloves
·1 3/4 cup (400 g) Queso Fresco (can use ricotta as a substitute)
·¾ cup evaporated milk
·4 tbs vegetable oil
1.)Remove seeds and veins from ají Amarillo and rinse.
2.)Heat oil in a medium skillet.
3.)Fry the aji and garlic cloves until tender.
4.)Remove mixture from heat and let cool.
5.)Place mixture in a blender with the milk. Blend for a few seconds and then add the cheese and blend until there is a creamy texture. Add saltine crackers as needed to thicken the sauce.
6.)Add salt and pepper to taste.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.