Belqui’s Arepitas de Yuca

Belqui Arepitas de Yuca

Submitted by Belqui Ortiz-Millili

Golden-brown, crunchy-delicious and real-deal D.R., what’s not to love about these arepitas de yuca, the first-ever recipe Belqui Ortiz-Millili made for her cooking blog Belqui’s Twist? The “Twist” in the title is a nod to her love of shaking up traditional recipes, especially Latino ones and double especially Dominican ones, an homenaje to her roots.

It’s no surprise Belqui chose this dish for her cooking kickoff. After all, as every Dominican knows muy bien, yuca fritters are el side dish más famoso from the D.R. You basically grate yuca (a lot!, Belqui warns—that’s the hardest part about making them) and add eggs, butter, anise and spices. Fry—and deliciousness ensues. The only problem, says Belqui, is you can’t stop at eating just one, so make a big batch.

Belqui keeps things pretty classic with her inaugural recipe. Her twist is pumping up the amount of anise. “I just love anise seed,” she says. “It balances the hint of bitterness that’s in the yuca—which I love. Plus, because I grate it so fine, when you bite into the yuca, it breaks apart in your mouth. It’s crunchy on the outside and then super tender on the inside. And then you get that little hint of bitterness and you get that hint of the anise seed.”

She takes an imaginary bite. “Ah!” Belqui sighs. “I just love them.”

A Childhood in Her Family’s Dominican Kitchen

Here’s how Belqui Ortiz-Millili describes herself. “I’m a food blogger and autism mom who is sharing the joy of cooking Latin classics and fun twists on those classics,” says the New York-born and now Arizona-based Belqui, who grew up traveling back and forth between the Dominican Republic and New York’s Washington Heights.

She can’t even remember when she first learned to make the recipes of her homeland, she says. That’s how long she’s been at it. “My parents are both Dominican. And when I was really young, I was already being taught to season food and to help with cutting things. I remember we would get those big cement blocks and I would stand on one or two next to my mom, my grandmother or my aunt in front of the stove. And they would say: ‘Put in this ingredient. And when you do that, look for this with that ingredient. No, you stir this way. You have to hold the pan here.’ I was basically being trained like every single woman in my family to help out in the household.

Did she always like it? ”It didn’t bother me,” she says. “It was exciting. I wanted to learn, but I wanted to learn the things that I liked to eat first. Like pollo guisado, carne guisada, and obviously rice and beans. Because what would our life be like if it wasn’t for the rice and beans we eat on the side of everything that we eat?”

Belqui was soon assigned the responsibility of making dinner. Every night.

“My mom and my dad worked in factories in Brooklyn. They had really long commutes, over an hour each way. My mom would season the meat the night before, and I would come home from school and cook. And then they would get home, and dinner was prepared. I was always protective of my parents because I knew how hard the work was in the factory and how tired they were when they got home. So, I never complained about having to cook.”

It could easily have gone the other way, but Belqui learned to love, deeply, her daily kitchen time. ”Cooking still fills my soul,” she says. Plus, she learned a lot, fast. By the time she was 15, she knew how to make every single Dominican dish, she says. Belqui even became the family experta in making locrio, a Dominican chicken and rice one-pot wonder with a touch of caramelized sugar.

But today, we’re talking arepitas, one of her forever favorite things to make. Key to the success of this side is to hand-grate muchísima yuca—which pretty much means scraped knuckles every time. Her mom wishes she would use gloves when she’s power grating, but Belqui says that’s not her style. “I like to get my hands on food when I’m making something. Some people don’t like it, but it makes me feel grounded.”

How to Serve Arepitas de Yuca

You can eat arepitas as an appetizer or a side, says Belqui. If you want them as a starter, you can serve them solo or accompanied by some sort of sauce. “In my family, we’re not big dip people, but you can dip them in anything you want. They go great with mojo. Some people like them with mayonnaise. Or you can saute red onions with a little oil and vinegar, cook down the onion, and put that on top of your arepitas. Me, I just love them as they are. No me le pongan nada al lado. I love them plain.”

If you want them as a side, Belqui advises pairing arepitas de yuca with rice and beans, pollo guisado or chuletas: pork chops. Think of them “like plátanos fritos,” she advises. Whatever you would serve alongside tostones and ripe maduro plantains, you can serve with arepitas—to great acclaim. Not one arepita de yuca will be left on anyone’s plate, Belqui promises.

Ready to make Belqui’s arepitas de yuca with a twist of anise?

Belqui’s Arepitas de Yuca

4 from 11 votes
Recipe by Belqui Ortiz-Millili Cuisine: Dominican
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

10

minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups 2 yuca, grated

  • 1 cup 1 corn oil, for frying

  • 1 Tbsp 1 butter, softened

  • 1 1 egg, beaten

  • 1 tsp 1 anise seed

  • 1/4 tsp 1/4 ground oregano

  • 1/2 tsp 1/2 salt

  • 1/2 tsp 1/2 sugar

Directions

  • Grate the yuca using the smallest size of your grater.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the yuca, butter, egg, anise seed, salt, oregano and sugar. Mix together until very well combined.
  • In a frying pan, heat up the oil over medium heat.
  • Place about 1 Tbsp of the mixture in the oil, one at a time.
  • Cook until the fritter has turned golden brown, for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
  • Remove from the pan and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to remove excess grease. Repeat until the entire batch is done—and serve.

Notes

  • Belqui recommends using only fresh yuca, not the frozen version. “I buy fresh yuca and freeze it. I buy it, peel it, take the vein out from the center, and cut it, and freeze it for when I am going to use it. It’s a lot better than buying it frozen. It tastes so much better and doesn’t have preservatives.”
Belqui Arepitas de Yuca
The hardest part about making arepitas de yuca is the grating, says Belqui. And it’s worth the effort to start with fresh yuca.
Belqui Arepitas de Yuca
“I use extra anise seed. It balances the little bit of bitterness that’s in the yuca—which I love,” says Belqui.
Belqui Arepitas de Yuca
Fry the arepitas in corn oil, until each side is golden brown.
Belqui Arepitas de Yuca
In her step-by-step video, Belqui samples the finished arepitas. Her verdict? Worth the work!
Belqui Arepitas de Yuca
Están listas. These arepitas de yuca are ready to …
Watch Belqui step by step as she guides us through making her arepitas de yuca.
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  1. Hello, in the recipe you did not mention the amount of yuca, and I wondered if you could use cooked yuca instead of raw

    1. Our apologies! You’re 100% right: that measurement accidentally got deleted. It has now been restored, thanks to you. The amount of grated yuca is 1 pound, which is about 2 cups. As to using cooked versus raw, we will ask Belqui and post her answer here. Thanks, Agnes!

      1. Hola Agnes, we put your Q right to Belqui–and here is what she was very happy to answer:

        Hi Agnes! Belqui here. 🙂
        It’s about 1 lb of yuca. In the video of me making it I used one whole yuca like the ones you see me standing in front of while tasting the finished arepitas. The great thing is that you can do 1-1/2 lbs too with the same amount of the other ingredients, just a tiny bit more of anis, but not necessary. The arepitas might just be a bit thicker.
        About whether you can use cooked yuca, the arepitas are always made with raw yuca. Because of the consistency of the cooked yuca, I don’t think that it would be as good. But because I always encourage having fun in the kitchen, you can try to make it with cooked yuca and see how it turns out. But maybe try it after you make the original so you can make a comparison. Let us know if you do try it!