Yuca & Beef Carimañolas— Perfect for Breakfast in Panama
These carimañolas—deep fried yuca sticks filled with savory ground beef—were Lisa Kear’s absolute favorite breakfast food when she was growing up in Panama. Maria, their family’s housekeeper, taught Lisa how to make these tasty fritters. The blend of spices and olives in her recipe are essential to the carimañolas’ irresistible flavor, says Lisa.
Carimañolas are a go-to breakfast in Panama, much loved for their hearty balance of starch and protein. Lisa has especially fond memories of eating carimañolas the morning after a barbeque. The leftover ground beef and yuca from the barbeque was rolled up into carimañolas and then deep fried for a delicious and easy-to-make breakfast the morning after.
The popularity of carimañolas in Panama is also due to the abundance of the main ingredient: yuca or cassava. When she was growing up, Lisa’s grandmother would go to their yard and dig up the yuca when the plant was mature enough. Since it grows year round, there was always a fresh supply of yuca, recalls Lisa.
How did she wind up growing up on a farm in Panama? It goes back to her grandfather, Lisa says. He grew up on a large farm in Kentucky. Although he was originally a teacher, he enlisted in the Navy and ended up stationed in Panama, where he met and married a local, Lisa’s grandmother. The couple moved to the countryside in Panama, bought 10 acres of land, and planted yuca alongside coffee, plantains and anything else that would grow in the humid climate.
While Lisa currently lives in Tennessee and no longer has access to freshly harvested yuca, this delicious root is available either fresh or frozen at most American grocery stores—and it’s honestly pretty good, she says. Lisa makes her yuca the way her family did– boiling it before tenderizing. Once the yuca is softened, carimañolas and a number of other Panamanian dishes can be made.
Lisa often pre-boils the yuca, cuts it into strips, and then freezes it. When she is craving carimañolas or any other of the many Panamanian dishes starring yuca, her yuca is ready to go—always a good thing, says Lisa.
For more Panamanian recipes from Lisa’s childhood, check out her family-famous beef empanadas, her Familia Kitchen Recipe Contest-winning Panamanian flan, her sweet guava-and-cheese empanadas, her Panamanian pollo guisado (stewed chicken) with spaghetti, and and her delicious ron ponche, just the thing for celebrations and parties.
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