Today, I am sharing with you the recipe for mandocas, these delicious little fried rings made from corn flour, panela, plantain, and cheese that are just to die for!
Destination Venezuela, at the northern tip of South America, one of the first lands discovered by Christopher Columbus, in 1498.
What is a mandoca?
The mandoca is called the Zulian pretzel. In Venezuela, talking about mandocas is really talking about the state of Zulia, a Venezuelan region with a very rich and varied gastronomy, as well as an important cultural diversity.
The state of Zulia is located in the northwest of Venezuela and its capital is Maracaibo. There is nothing more typical of this state that the mandocas. The mandoca is in the DNA of the Maracuchos!
The mandoca combines these 4 ingredients that summarize the essential flavors of the state of Zulia: corn, panela, cheese and plantain. It is one of the fundamental elements of Zulia’s culinary culture.
If there is one element that distinguishes the cuisine of the state of Zulia, it is the presence of an ingredient that, even if it comes from far away, is already absolutely Zulian: plantain.
Known for its beautiful botanical name, musa paradisiaca, the muse of paradise, plantain is the daily bread of the Maracuchos, who consume it in all forms and at all stages of ripening.
The diet of the state of Zulia is so important that its flag features a banana leaf on one side. Banana is the soul and life of the local table.
Native to Southeast Asia, plantain is the fruit of a giant plant. It is much less sweet than conventional bananas that are usually consumed as dessert.
In Venezuela, it is called “green gold”. When people talk about plantain, it is called platano, whereas the classic fruit is called cambur.
The main visual difference is the size of the plantain. Its high starch content makes it indigestible when it is raw. Therefore, it has to be cooked to digest it. And, even when it is very mature, it must still be cooked a little.
In the oven or steamed, with or without the skin, the recipes are plenty. It can be cut into slices and then fried in hot oil. You can also make savory chips with them. A classic banana is about 8 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Plantains may be more than 12 inches long and up to 2 inches in diameter.
An adage of popular tradition says: “The path to plantain is closer than that to the doctor”. Indeed, you cannot fathom all the benefits of plantain. This adage simply means that the plant is present everywhere and throughout the year, so that its fields are considered an open pharmacy.
We already know its usefulness when it comes to cooking. 196 flavors is not short of plantain recipes: patacones, akwadu, poulet DG, nyembwe chicken or jollof rice and the plantain fries that come with them, the list is very long!
The benefits of plantain
Let’s discover how to use it in home remedy recipes, to cure your sores. Plantain is a plant rich in properties, widely used in herbal medicine.
It stops bleeding wounds and promotes their healing thanks to the mucilage present in the leaves.
For external use, it is possible to use fresh chopped leaves to make a dressing that, in addition to a wound treatment, is useful for relieving inflammation of the skin and eyes and for treating superficial burns.
This plant is also used to treat and soothe insect bites, thanks to its antipruritic effect.
Its anti-inflammatory properties help to naturally cure colds and other ailments related to winter. In addition, it is very effective against coughing, hoarseness, asthma and obstructed bronchi.
It can be used in case of problems of the intestinal tract, such as the irritable colon since gluten-free. Its infusion can be used to gargle in case of inflammation of the mouth and throat.
In herbal medicine, plantain is used as a natural remedy against conjunctivitis and inflammation of the eyelids.
To take advantage of the many properties of plantain, its infusion, complete with the skin, is an ideal solution by itself or combined with other plants such as eucalyptus, thyme, altea and malva.
How to prepare mandocas?
These mandocas, which are what the churros are to Spain, the sfenjs in Morocco, or the nuégados to El Salvador and Latin America, are thus composed of these 4 ingredients which make them so special. Their flavor is unique by their subtle sweetness with panela that is added to the corn flour, plantain and cheese.
After giving them the shape of a tear or elongated ring, they are lightly fried and the result is a very light and soft spongy donut.
Mandocas should be eaten hot, often at breakfast, accompanied by cheese (grated or not), butter and coffee with milk.
They were delicious and I would even venture to say they were addictive! It is hard to stop when you get started!
- 1 lb fine corn meal (corn flour)
- 1 plantain (very ripe)
- 1 teaspoon anise seeds
- 8 oz. panela
- 8 oz. grated cheese
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup warm water
- Corn oil (for frying)
Peel the plantain and purée it. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the warm water and panela until it is dissolved.
Add the salt, anise seeds, plantain and grated cheese and mix.
Stir in the corn flour gradually.
If necessary, and depending on the consistency of the dough, add a little more water or corn flour to obtain a light dough but a somewhat firm.
Once the dough is ready, let it rest for 10 minutes.
Form small sticks about 3 inches long and ½ inch in diameter.
Grasp both ends of each stick and make a teardrop shape by squeezing them tightly.
Let stand 5 minutes.
Heat a large pot with corn oil and deep-fry the mandocas.
Mandocas are ready when they are golden on both sides.
Drop them as you go on a plate lined with paper towel.
Serve the mandocas hot, accompanied by grated cheese and/or butter.