Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ginger Malanga Kale Soup

     A Caribbean Soup That Provides Relief From The Heat!
     Malanga or Yautia are two names for the same tropical root vegetable.  Malanga is called Cocoyam in Jamaica.  Malanga is also known by its slang names, "cool root" or "sweat root."      
     The origins of Malanga can be found in Africa.  Malanga is sometimes classified as a yam, but this is a case of mistaken identity.  Malanga comes from the Elephant Ear Plant Family, just like Arrow Root and Taro.  Of all three of these rhizomes, Malanga has the most flavor.       
    Malanga also has medicinal value.  Malanga has a chemical in it that causes a very light misty sweat on the skin.  The light sweat effect makes a person feel like it is 10ºF to 20ºF cooler on a hot summer day!  That truly is a blessing in the tropics.

     Ginger Kale Soup is an old traditional Caribbean soup.  Ginger Kale Soup is very soothing and it has great health benefits.  I used to sell Ginger Kale Soup as a soup du jour long before running across Malanga.
     I kew about Malanga, but I never cooked it in a restaurant till a friend of mine from the Cayman Islands got into the root vegetable delivery business.  One day, he showed up at an English pub where I was working with a couple cases each of Yama Blanco and Yautia Malanga.  He gave me a great promotional price, because he was just starting his business, so I bought a few cases of the tropical root vegetables.
     That same day I was planning to make a traditional Ginger Kale Soup.  I thought that Malanga would add nice flavor and heartiness to the soup.  I ate the first bowl of soup, just for the misty sweat effect of the malanga soup, because the kitchen was very hot and humid.  The effects were immediate!  It felt like somebody installed a brand new air conditioner in that kitchen.
     I offered a bowl to the English pub owner and explained how Malanga got its nickname.  He complimented both the flavor of the soup and its quick chilling effect!
     That same day, a few Irish patrons were seated at the bar and it was easy to strike up a conversation about potato soup, with the intent of getting them interested in trying "a new kind of potato."  The "new potato species" that I used in the sales pitch, just happened to be Malanga.    
     After the first few spoonfuls of soup, the Irish customers kept asking "What kind of potato is this? ... It tastes really good!"  The Irish customers continued to rave about the Ginger Malanga Kale Soup and this caused nearly everybody at the bar counter to order a bowl of the soup du jour.  Even the bar maid tried a bowl.
     After a few minutes, the medicinal effects of the Malanga sweat chemical made its presence known.  Everybody at the English pub exclaimed that they were feeling chilly.  The light misty sweat effect of the Malanga Root definitely was working!  Some of the customers actually started sneezing when the ceiling fans blew fresh air their way!  Good old Malanga was the cause of the chills and not one customer figured it out till they were told!

     Ginger Malanga Kale Soup:
     This recipe yields 1 large bowl of soup.  (About 2 1/4 cups.)
     There is nothing fancy about the techniques involved with making this soup.  Like many Caribbean soups, the ingredients are simply boiled and simmered.  
     It is best to peel Malanga with a paring knife, because the root skin is coarse and tough.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 2 1/2 cups of light chicken broth.
     Add 2/3 cup of large diced of malanga root.  (1/2" cube shapes.)
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped celery.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion.
     Add 1 1/3 cups of chopped green kale leaves.
     Step 2:  Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced ginger.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Step 3:  Bring the ingredients to a boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer till the diced malanga and kale become tender.  Allow the volume to reduce to about 2 1/4 cups.  (Add a splash of water if the volume of the soup is too low.)
     Step 5:  Keep the soup warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     Ladle into a soup bowl.
     No garnish is necessary!

     Ginger Kale Soup has a nice healthy tropical Caribbean flavor.  It was a natural to add Malanga to this soup.  Malanga has an interesting root vegetable flavor of its own and the texture is lighter on the tummy than potato. 

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