The Caribbean Islands and much of North America describes the Cassava root vegetable as “yuca”. It is a starchy tuberous root and is very similar to potatoes, yam, and malanga. Yuca (cassava) is one of the most drought tolerant vegetables and is a very popular crop throughout the Caribbean Islands.
There is a lot of confusion with the words “yuca” and “yucca”. Yuca is the correct spelling of the vegetable. In addition, the word yucca is a plant that is mainly seen in mountainous and desert areas. Also, yucca is rarely used in food and more as an ornamental plant. A quick google image search will show you that both yuca and yucca definitely do not look alike.
Furthermore, there is a lot of misconceptions that fresh cassava should always be avoided and frozen yuca is a better option. This reason being that fresh cassava could be too dangerous for human consumption if prepared improperly. In fact, Yuca (cassava) contains cyanide, a toxin that is poisonous at high doses. Usually, cassava is categorized by being sweet or bitter. This bitter type is the cassava that contains toxic amounts of cyanide. However, this is mainly an issue outside of the United States of America.
Do you think a vegetable would be sold in the USA if it was that deadly? We all forget that in the United States of America, USDA has strict regulations on vegetables that are sold in stores. The yuca (cassava) is inspected for quality and freshness prior to being sold in stores. Of course, I do not recommend growing your own cassava for consumption. Food, in general, should always be prepared properly to avoid health issues.
To prepare yuca properly, make sure to completely remove the outside brown layer and any purplish areas. Then, cooking the yuca wedges is sufficient to eliminate all toxicity. Traditionally in the Caribbean Islands, yuca is soaked in water for 24 hours prior to cooking. This also helps to reduce cyanide levels.
Yuca (cassava) is cooked differently in the parts of the Caribbean Islands. Yuca con Mojo is one of the most popular traditional Cuban food dishes. These are some traditional cooking tips that are used in Cuban cuisine. Preparation of the yuca root is explained the in paragraph above.
Boil the yuca wedges in water until they are tender soft. If you decide on using frozen yuca, it will take a little longer for them to become soft when you boil them. Delicious mojo sauce is used to give these soft wedges a perfect flavor. But, this is not your ordinary mojo. The mojo used for fried plantains or yuca is more oil based and does not contain oregano or cumin. Naranja agria (bitter orange) juice is traditionally used in yuca con mojo, but some Cubans preferably use lime juice instead. Same goes for the cilantro garnish, with some also substituting it with parsley.
Speaking of, we have a detailed Cuban Mojo Sauce recipe if you are interested in the marinade version.