Sunday 7 September 2008

ecuadorian tuna & yuca soup

This soup is really easy to make and tastes wonderful.

I have to admit I did make some adjustments to the original recipe, but to be fair it was only available in Spanish and did contain questionable items such as “MSG”. But the basic idea behind the soup was good and I knew I could tweak it a little bit to make it perfect.

The addition of yuca, an ingredient I had never tasted before, was intriguing. Although I can buy fresh yuca/cassava from the grocer next to my house, I was also aware that cassava contains cyanide and cooking it incorrectly can lead to death. Yes, I decided to go with the canned variety for my first time and will be a little more adventurous next time around. I promise!

This recipe, being Ecuadorian (an Andean nation), is another notch for my 2008 Food Challenges. This makes me very happy because it's already September and I haven't even gotten through half of my ambitious list of tasks!

The author of the recipe claims “este es el mejor remedio para el chuchaqui”, which means this soups is an excellent hangover cure. Do you need any more convincing!

Encebollado de Pescado (Ecuadorian Tuna Soup)
Based on an
internet recipe. Serves 2 as main course.

400g tuna, cubed
300g canned yuca (cassava)
1 small red onion, chopped finely
1 tomato, sliced
500ml fish stock
2 garlic cloves
1½ tablespoons tomato paste
1 red chilli, chopped
1½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly milled pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch chilli flakes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Olive oil, for cooking and drizzling
Fresh coriander leaves, for garnish


1. Rinse the yuca and break into smaller pieces.

2. In a pot, fry the onion and garlic until soft.

3. Add the fresh chilli and all the spices then fry until fragrant.

4. Add the tomato and tomato paste and stir until thickened slightly.

5. Add the stock and combine well.

6. Bring the stock to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

7. Add yuca and tuna. Poach until tuna is cooked and yuca is warm (about 5 minutes).

8. Divide soup between bowls then top with lemon juice, olive oil and fresh coriander.

Yuca (Manihot esculenta) is known by many names including cassava, manioc and mandioca.

Native to South America, it is grown all over the world in tropical and subtropical regions, and in fact is the world’s third largest source of carbohydrates for humans.

Based on plant genetics, they believe the first types of cassava were domesticated around 10,000 years ago in west-central Brazil, but the oldest evidence of cultivation is a Mayan site in El Salvador, dating 1,400 years ago.

By the time the Spanish arrived in the Americas, cassava was a staple food for the Olmec, Teotihuacan, Maya and Aztec peoples from Central America down to southern Brazil and even into the West Indies.

In 2002, world production was around 184 million tonnes, making cassava the “third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world” and African nations the main producers.

It’s a woody shrub and both the roots and leaves can be eaten, although raw forms of both contain doses of cyanide and therefore must be processed before eating.

Leaves contain good sources of protein but the highest levels of cyanide, while the roots are rich in starch, calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin C.

The roots are sometime eaten raw, although this is dangerous as they still contain levels of cyanogenic glucosides (which produces the cyanide). In fact 40mg of pure cassava cyanogenic glucoside can kill a cow!

Soaking, cooking or mixing the cassava with water to form a paste are the only truly safe ways to consume this root vegetable.

Here are some ways yuca/cassava is served up around the world:
  • Bahamas - used as a skin balm after too much sun exposure.
  • Bermuda - Christmas is celebrated with cassava pie.
  • Bolivia - boiled then fried and eaten with hot sauce, cheese and dried corn .
  • Brazil - the thick gravy pirão is made with cassava flour and fish heads and bones.
  • Caribbean - cassava is turned into flour and made into casaba bread.
  • Central America - Buñuelos, donuts, of are made from cassava.
  • Colombia - the dessert, enyucado, is made from boiled cassava, anise, sugar and guava jam.
  • Cuba - cassava paste is used to treat irritable bowel syndrome and it’s a main ingredient in the traditional vegetarian stew Ajiaco.
  • Dominican Republic - catibía empanadas are made from cassava flour.
  • El Salvador - yuca frita con chicharrón is deep fried cassava served with pickled cabbage, onion and carrot topping and pork rinds.
  • Guyana - the juice of toxic cassava is boiled into a syrup, spiced significantly and then used as the basis of sauce and flavourings when cooking.
  • Haiti - Moussa porridge is made from cassava flour.
  • India - in Kerala it is made into a seafood curry.
  • Indonesia - cassava is fermented to make a sweet paste called tape, a sweet paste which is added to alcoholic drinks.
  • Jamaica - bammies are fried cassava cakes, a recipe passed from the native Arawak Indians.
  • Nicaragua - the national dish Vaho is made from cassava.
  • Philippines - eaten as a dessert in cassava pie, made from grated cassava, sugar, coconut milk, and coconut cream.
  • Sierra Leone - cassava leaves are the basis of the famous palaver sauce.
  • Tanzania - mihogo is street snack of soaked then fried cassava served with a chill salt.
  • West Africa - made into gari by frying grated cassava in palm oil.
  • UK - tapioca pearls, the basis of tapioca pudding, are made from cassava flour.

This is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Ulrike from Küchenlatein.




  1. I think there's no real danger to cook it in the wrong way.

    Thanks for participation in WHB.
    Ulrike from Küchenlatein

  2. We eat a lot of cassava back in my home country. I love this variation here with tuna.

  3. I spend few months in South America where yuca is used in everyday cooking and never heard about special preparation process, I think you can safely use fresh one, my favourite is Yuca Frita (deep fried yuca).

  4. I know nothing about yuca (is that the same as yucca, that's how we spell the cactus plant here?) Another interesting and impressive entry from you! Sounds very tasty.

  5. kalyn - i'm pretty sure the cactus yucca is different from the tuber cassava/yuca.

  6. I found your blog when I was googling for Sharba, you have a really wonderful blog!I´ll be back:) Do you speak swedish?

  7. Great contribution, the "encebollado" looks great!

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.


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