Whether prepared from corn flour (nuegados de masa), banana (nuegados de guineo), eggs (nuegados de huevo) or cassava (nuegados de yuca), they are a traditional sweet delicacy in many Latin American countries as well as Spain. However, they are called nuegados only in El Salvador. They are called buñuelos almost everywhere else.
The word nuegado defines an oven-baked dough made from flour, honey and nuts, usually made from almonds, pine nuts, hemp seeds and hazelnuts.
The word nuegado originally comes from the Latin word nux or nucis which means nuts. This term, in the strict sense of the word, that is to say in its version based on nuts, is used in Spain, especially in the regions of Castile and Leon, Andalusia, Extremadura, and Salamanca.
In some parts of Spain, nuegado is an oven-baked dough made from flour, honey and nuts, in others, it is a fried dough cut into strips and coated with honey. In the Sierra de Francia, nuts, honey and especially crispy wafers are essential to the recipe. To these ingredients, and according to the custom, some add breadcrumbs, anise, and sugar. The breadcrumbs give consistency and the sugar make it more solid. They sometimes look like a kind of nougat.
The recipe for nuégados salvadoreños is very different from the Spanish recipes I just mentioned. It is simply a fusion of culinary cultures, Spanish cuisine and indigenous pipil cuisine.
The Pipils are indigenous people who are established in El Salvador. Today they populate the central and western regions of El Salvador and speak pipil, a dialect derived from Nahuatl. Their ancestors come from present-day Mexico and settled in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Both cultures have thus largely contributed to the development of this rich dessert.
But whichever nuegados you decide to make (for my part I chose cassava), the particularity of these nuégados salvadoreños is panela honey!
What is panela?
It is also called rapadura, raspadura, rapadou, atado dulce, chancaca, empanizao, papelón, piloncillo, panocha in the Spanish and Portuguese languages. It is also called pain de vesou in France or jaggery in India.
Its only ingredient is the sugar cane juice, which is cooked at high temperature to give a kind of molasses, then cooled in a cone shape. The viscous molasses that is obtained is then poured into small molds. After drying, the end result is sucrose and solid fructose pieces.
Panela is therefore an unrefined cane sugar, which retains all its original substances, with an intense brown color. It has not undergone any transformation or refining, which gives this very dark amber color and explains that it is wet and subject to agglomerate. As it is solid, it is often crushed into small pieces or grated very finely before being used. It is also sold ground.
Panela is a typical product of Latin American countries that serves both as a sweetener and a healing food against malnutrition, skin diseases and cooling conditions, considering its considerable nutritional properties.
Although panela is a full-fledged sugar made up of 72% sucrose, it has a low glycemic index; the remaining 28% are nutrients and a concentration of fat-soluble vitamins, including:
– Vitamin A, useful for keeping the skin toned and elastic and to preserve it against certain serious diseases.
– Vitamin E: a precious vitamin with strong anti-aging properties.
– Vitamin D: useful for maintaining healthy bones, especially during the growth period, to prevent rickets and contribute to calcium production.
– Amino acids. This sugar is rich in lysine, improves cartilage health, while helping to prevent osteoporosis.
– Arginine: essential to fight against fatigue.
– Trace metals: potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron and phosphorus.
– Inulin, which is a fiber that can reduce the glycemic index of foods. This is why panela has a much lower glycemic curve and 23% calories less than normal sugar. But be careful, even if its glycemic index is very low, it contains a high percentage of sucrose and is therefore not suitable for diabetics.
What is yuca?
Today’s nuegados are nuégados salivadoreños de yuca. So I chose cassava aka yuca!
For those who do not yet know this delicious cassava, let’s discover together this root of ancient origin, rich in carbohydrates, iron and calcium. It is also called the root of the Mayans.
The earliest known evidence of cassava cultivation, found at the Mayan site of Joya de Ceren, El Salvador, dates back to 1,400 years ago.
But in reality, cassava comes from the subspecies flabellifolia, native to west-central Brazil. In this region, cassava has probably been cultivated for at least 10,000 years. The discovery of pollen on the archaeological site of San Andrés proved the presence of cassava in the Gulf of Mexico a little more than 6,600 years ago.
After the arrival of Europeans on the American continent, the Portuguese were the first to export and introduce it at African plantations, where it is still grown in large quantities.
There are 2 types of cassava:
– bitter, with a smooth skin
– sweet, with a wrinkled skin
Over time, both can change their appearance from sweet to bitter or vice versa.
Cassava is high in starch, low in protein and does not contain gluten. Very diuretic, it has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is an energy food, complete and healthy, given the high percentage of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
Thanks to its high potassium content, it helps regulate body fluids and control blood pressure. The right amount of vitamin C gives the antioxidant properties of cassava a capacity to strengthen the immune system thanks to its free radicals.
Its vitamin K content is high, which can help fight osteoporosis and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Cassava has a fairly neutral flavor and a slightly fragrant and spicy aftertaste. The tuber is also suitable for boiling, baking or fried, but should not be eaten raw. It can be used to accompany meat and fish or to make tasty and velvety creams. The cassava broth is often useful for thickening soups and baby dishes.
Tapioca, also known as cassava flour, can be obtained from the dried tuber, which can be used alone or mixed with cereal flours to prepare desserts and baked goods, or even beverages like bubble tea.
The most challenging part of cassava is peeling. It is necessary to eliminate the cortex, i.e. the outer skin and to leave only the central cylinder. Roots must be treated within 24 hours after peeling.
Washing the peeled tuber in a basin of cold drinking water is very important because there is a toxin in the skin. This toxin is present inside the pulp, especially in the case of the bitter variety. Indeed, if the peeled tubers are not washed, the recipe will result in the use of a toxic product or of poor quality.
What a long way since the first recipe of a donut dough, the aliter dulcia, given by Marcus Gavius Apicius, famous gourmet at the beginning of the first century in his book De re coquinaria (“On the subject of cooking”)!
From Moroccan sfenj to French nun’s puffs, South African koeksisters, Tunisian fricassés, New Orleans beignets, Polish faworki, and Tanzanian mandazi, there is nothing better than good hot fritter, whether savory or sweet!
As for the nuégados and the combination of cassava, eggs and cheese, all topped with panela honey… Well, they were excellent! I will definitely try them with corn flour too!
- 1 lb cassava , peeled, rinsed and ground very finely
- 2 eggs , beaten
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 oz. hard (or soft) cheese, grated
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
- ½ lb panela whole, broken into pieces, or ground
- 1 cup water
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 3 whole cloves
- Pour the panela into a large saucepan.
- Add the water and spices.
- Simmer over medium heat until the panela is completely dissolved.
- Mix and boil over low heat, stirring frequently until the honey thickens enough to leave the spoon covered with a light layer, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.
- Mix all the ingredients to form a soft dough.
- Shape the nuégados like a small tortilla.
- Heat a large pot with oil and deep-fry the nuégados until they are golden brown.
- Serve the nuégados drizzled with panela honey.