Written by Marianly Hernandez Primmer, Whole Foods Market team member
Brown, bumpy, hairy and delicious — yes, delicious. The malanga is a cylindrical-shaped root, similar to the taro root. A malanga can be cooked several different ways.
Malangas can be pressurized in a pressure cooker, baked or fried. Some people puree it, similar to mashed potatoes. Malangas may be added to stews or soups. It can also be boiled and served as a side dish with beans and rice. If you like fried foods, you may want to try malanga fritters.
For some customers at Whole Foods Market the malanga is an exotic, hidden gem.
“I grew up in the Midwest. I never heard of or seen a malanga until I met my girlfriend who is Cuban,” Michael Donnelly said.
Meanwhile others have grown up eating malanga since before they can remember.
“My mom tells me malanga puree was the first food I ate. She said I scarfed it down. I still can’t get enough of it today,” Madeleine Vidal, a South Florida resident, said.
In fact, pureed malanga is the first solid food many South Florida babies eat. Doctors say it is a very hypo-allergenic food.
“It’s pretty safe to start with malanga because it doesn’t invoke allergies later on,” said Dr. Hector Rodriguez, a Miami physician from Wellmax Medical Center, who recommends parents mash the malanga only with water for their baby’s first feedings.
“In the Cuban culture they usually start with malanga.”
In fact, people in Caribbean, Central and South American countries have been eating malangas for centuries.
The good news is malanga is always in season in tropical and subtropical climates.
The year-round root has other benefits. According to the Sarasota County Extension office, malanga is rich in thiamine and riboflavin. It also contains some iron and vitamin C.
So, whether you fry, puree or pressurize it, the malanga is a natural, year-round treat.
“It’s delicious. I like to add a few drops of olive oil to moisten malanga puree when I mix it. It really hits the spot,” Vidal added.