Colombian-Panamanian Cassava Fritters*

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Appears in

A Canon of Vegetables

A Canon of Vegetables

By Raymond Sokolov

Published 2007

  • About

In Cartagena de Indias, where the fortifications that once held the treasures of the Spanish Empire still face the Caribbean shore of Colombia, a polyglot cuisine developed, a mix of indigenous, African, and Spanish ideas and ingredients. Carimañolas are a trademark dish of the region, which extends westward into Panama. Like empanadas or pakoras, they are stuffed savory pastries. The difference is that the dough is created from mashed cassava, rolled around a chilified, chopped-meat picadillo, and then shaped into a sort of torpedo. In her recipe the preeminent Cartagenan cook Teresita Roman de Zurek says that a carimañola should look like a blimp, como un dirigible.


  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 3 dried red chiles, seeded
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 cups oil or lard for frying
  • pounds cassava (yuca), peeled and cut into chunks


  1. Put the pork, beef, onion, garlic, chiles, vinegar, cumin, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a processor with ½ cup of water and mix well.
  2. Heat ¼ cup of the oil or lard with a tablespoon of salt in a saucepan large enough to hold the yuca in a single layer. Add the yuca chunks and cover. Let the yuca chunks simmer until they have softened just enough to run a fork through them.
  3. While the yuca is still hot, process in short spurts until it turns into a smooth dough.
  4. Moisten your hands and roll into 12 balls. Flatten the balls and stuff each one with about ¼ cup of the ground-meat mixture. Close the balls around the stuffing and form into torpedo-shaped bundles.
  5. Heat the remaining oil or lard until it just begins to smoke. Fry the carimañolas three at a time until nicely browned. Drain in a wire basket or on paper toweling. Serve as soon as possible.

*Adapted from Teresita Roman de Zurek’s Cartagena de Indias en la Olla (Bogota: Gamma, 18th edition, 1988).

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