Cassava Chips – National Chip Week

It’s about time we had some good news in the UK and I was as pleased as Wayne Rooney to discover that this week is National Chip week. In England we love our chips and from 9-15 February National Chip week will help promote all things chips, which cooked properly and contary to popular belief still have all the goodness of potatoes and can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. 

But as well as being the other half of our national dish and enjoyed from Belgium to Guatemala, in some corners of the world the climate and soil are not suitable for growing potatoes, but fear not. The love of chips still prevails and in the tropics of Brazil locals get down with cassava chips for their fix.

The cassava, yucca or mandioc root, is a native plant of Brazil that has been cultivated and processed in South America for nearly 5000 years. A relative of the ubiquitos yucca plants that seem to decorate dentist’s waiting rooms and urban gardens, cassava as a plant is easy to propagate, it grows well in low-nutrient soil and it can be harvested every two months providing plenty of well needed carbohydrate for hungry hard working locals. But after the the discovery of the new world it wasn’t just the locals that enjoyed cassava.

Once European colonists had discovered the virtues of this exotic crop that could be prepared in large quantities and would keep dry for several years, it became an ideal food for the crew and cargo of slave ships. Exported from Brazil cassava quickly spread throughout Africa, Asia and Europe fast becoming and remaining today a dependable food source for developing countires.

But as well as being a staple ingredient for the indigenous tribes of Brazil prior to colonization, and used in the preparation of porridges, cakes and breads, today cassava in its many different forms, is  an intergral ingredient of Brazilian cuisine.
From every fisherman’s home to the smartest restaurants in Rio, a plastic tub of farinha, a rough sawdust-like meal ground from roast cassava roots is spooned over beans, mixed into rice and blended with sauces to make every meal go that little bit further. 

The slender brown tubers of cassava are peeled of their rough skin before their white fiberous flesh is boiled and eaten in the same way we eat potatoes and added to stews; Starchy mashed cassava is used to thicken Bobó de Camarão, a heavy shrimp stew with its roots in the slave trade; Farofa de Manteiga is a dish made from frying the farinha with butter, onion and parsley and is served as a condiment with almost every meal in Brazil; The starch extracted from cassava roots is ground into a fine white flour that is used for baking Pão de Queijo a puffy bread roll made with fresh cheese that is found in every bakery in Brazil while the unground chalk-white beads of starch become what we know as tapioca.  But my simple favorite were the strips of cassava root deep-fried and eaten like chips and sold by street vendors. Here is a recipe I picked up on the road when cycling in Brazil that will let you celebrate national chip week with a difference.

Makes enough chips for four.
  • 2 large cassava/yucca roots
  • 1 cup of vegetable oil
  • salt 
  • ground pepper
1.  Peel the cassava/yucca and chop and slice into chunky chips. It will be hard to slice so take care and be sure to remove the fibrous core that runs the length of the root.

2. Bring a litre of salted water to the boil. Add the cassava/yucca and cook for 30 minutes. Remove and strain until dry. 

3. Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy pan until spitting. Add the cassava/yucca and fry on each side until golden brown on each side. 

4. Remove the chips from the oil and leave to rest on some paper towels. Serve warm sprinkled with salt and cracked black pepper.

How about some chip facts?

This entry was posted on Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 23:45 and is filed under Brazilian Recipes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed or trackback from your own site. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Cassava chips are marvellous. Of course over here (and in Belgium, and in many other places) if you ask for them with that name you’ll get cassava crisps, which are also quite marvellous.
    I didn’t realise that cassava was more or less the same thing as yukka.

  2. This blog is a fabulous find! We love to cycle!

  3. great to have you on board! where are you cycling?

  4. I absolutely love sago/tapioca pudding – it’s one of my favourites from childhood. The taro sounds like a very interesting addition.

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