Destination Bolivia for a popular street food snack made with cassava called sonso de yuca.
What is cassava?
Cassava is a tropical root crop that was first domesticated in southern Brazil and by extension it has become a common commodity throughout the natives of South America. Colonisation helped it spread far and wide to tropical colonies like Africa and India.
Cassava also commonly known as yuca in the United States is used just like a potato. The bland and starchy nature of this tuberous root helps it to absorb any flavors that are added to it. It can easily replace potatoes in most recipes.
It has been one of South American staples for more than a thousand years. The cassava root has a starchy and fibrous texture, which makes it more filling. In Bolivia, it was common to eat just boiled yuca and over the years, it started to be fried, grilled, baked and used in so many ways.
This highly popular edible root is consumed in a variety of dishes not only throughout Bolivia but in fact most of Latin America. Each country has a regional variation of the same dish with different names.
What is sonso de yuca?
Sonso de yuca (or sonzo de yuca) is a traditional Bolivian dish, especially in the Eastern region of Bolivia like Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando, the regions where cassava is highly cultivated. It is a popular street food in Santa cruz. Since cassava has a sweetish nutty flavor when cooked, sonso de yuca is often referred to as a sweet snack. It is usually served with a cup of coffee in the evening.
Sonso de yuca is a mixture of mashed cassava and local cheese, which can be made in 3 different ways. It can be fried, baked or grilled. Commonly, the dough is grilled on a big bamboo skewer over charcoal, which imparts a smoky flavor which is characteristic of the street side snack. Some also bake this as a casserole or make these as patties frying on a griddle, in a similar way to arepas.
How to make sonso de yuca
One important thing to note is that raw, uncooked cassava is toxic. Hence, it is advised to cook the root and leaves properly before consuming. Apart from this caution, sonso de yuca is quite simple to prepare. Afew things to keep in mind while preparing the recipe:
– Use the correct ratio of cheese and mashed cassava. If using a large amount of cheese, it might ooze out while cooking
– Mash the cassava while it is still hot prevents lump formation.
Yuca dishes around the world
You will find carimañolas, a popular type of yuca fritters, in Colombia and Panama.
You will find other types of yuca fritters, known as nuegados in Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Buñuelos from the Dominican Republic are traditional donuts that are often served during festive season. In some recipes, yuca fritters are dunked in sweet syrup.
Another popular food, yuca frita is popular in all Latin countries. Fried yucas are eaten with a spicy sauce called llajwa in Eastern Bolivia or as a side to hamburgers and steak, just like the regular fries in the West. Sometimes, they include cheese and choclo, a variety of large kernel corn from the Andes region.
In the Caribbean, and specially in the Solomon Islands, you will find a cassava pudding, that can be served sweet or as a side to grilled fish.
Cassava is not limited to the South American nations. It is highly used in South and Southeast Asia, as well as Africa. In India, tapioca pearls, made from cassava starch are a common ingredient. They are used in desserts like kheer, and they are obviously also used to make boba in the popular Taiwan boba tea (or bubble tea).
This tuber root seems to have a special place in the Latino community and is used extensively in cooking.
This recipe is validated by our Bolivian culinary expert, Lizet Flores de Bowen. You can find Lizet on her bilingual food blog Chipa by the Dozen.
- 3 lb cassava
- 1 lb mozzarella (or similar cheese), grated
- 1 lb hard cheese (e.g. Edam or Gouda), grated
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1½ tablespoon milk (warm)
- 1 egg , slightly beaten
Wash the cassava roots thoroughly and peel them, then cut into small cubes.
Rinse under cold water. Place the cassava in a saucepan and cover with cold water, then add salt and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 35 minutes.
Drain and purée cassava with a potato masher.
Mix the cassava and the grated cheeses and knead them by hand.
While kneading, add the butter, egg, and milk gradually. The cheeses are salty, so season lightly with salt.
Knead well until obtaining a homogeneous and slightly firm dough.
Divide the mixture in 8 to 10 balls.
Spread the balls of mashed cassava around half of each skewer, leaving a small empty space at the top of the skewer.
Place the skewers on a hot grill or griddle until the cassava is golden brown.
Once the sonsos de yuca are golden brown and hot, place them on a flat surface to let them cool slightly before eating.