Cuzco has lots of nibbles hidden in its streets and alleys. Sometimes they make it into restaurants, and sometimes they just stay on their corners, satisfying locals and remaining unknown to travelers. One such is yuca rebosada, breaded yuca bars.
Yuca is almost unknown in most of the English speaking world, although its close relative manioc is found in tapioca all over the place. While manioc is the bitter (poisonous) variety requiring much processing to be made safe and appear in puddings the world over, yuca is the sweet variety that is the major starch in the diet of the Western Amazon, including Cuzco.
It is a long brown tuber that grows close to the surface where the climate is hot enough, like in Cuzco’s lowlands. It makes its way to Cuzco’s markets to join the ubiquitous potato as a natural carbohydrate commonly found in soups and stews, as well as boiled and served on plates with meat.
But the yuca rebosada is a snack, a finger food, that not only is found in some Cuzco restaurants and bars, such as La Merienda, it also frequents Cuzco’s streets.
It is made from pre-cooked yuca strips, from which the tough thread down the yuca’s center has been removed, cut into appropriate sizes. The yuca is then dipped in beaten eggs and bread crumbs, before being deep fried until golden.
While it can be the first course of a lunch or dinner, it also can just be eaten as a snack, in place of bread, with coffee.
Some people like to have it along side a good salad.
While sometimes it is served with a sauce from hot peppers, such as the common yellow aji or the very hot rocoto, other times it is served with a “curtido,” a mixture of washed, finely sliced onion, diced rocoto pepper, with a touch of lemon and salt which slightly “pickle¨the opnion and pepper hence its name “curtido”.
Yuca rebosada is a perfect companion to many sauces, including the increasingly omnipresent mayonaise, ketchup, or mustard.
As a result, yuca rebosada is often found as a side accompanying dishes of shell fish.
It is also common in the famous “lonchesitos” or snacks of Cuzco eaten at classic tea-time, around four or five in the afternoon. Generally composed, according to Rosario Olivas Weston, of a tea, coffee or hot chocolate with pastries or sandwiches, yuca rebosada sometimes takes the place of the food to pair with the hot drink.
One of the best places to eat this delicious, twice-cooked yuca is on Ruinas Street. This street is very popular because, besides the yuca rebosada, one can find there papa rellena with either meat or egg, as well as a home-style sauce of toasted peanuts and rocoto, along with all the skill of the woman who sells the food. The food is available there on the street from ten in the morning until the merienda (the afternoon meal) is over.
The women who sell on the street pay great attention to making good food in order to satisfy the most demanding palate of their clients. Sometimes the clients are regulars who return again and again while other times they are just passersby tempted with the smells and sights of good street food.
Besides being delicious, it is said the yuca has considerable nutritional value. As a result, it will satisfy whoever decides to try it.