How’s that for a soup name? Malanga is grown in and exported from Ecuador, and since it was a vegetable I had not cooked with before, I thought I’d give it a try. Malanga goes by many names. In Puerto Rico it’s called yautia, in Cameroon they’re called cocoyams, and they are similar to taro and dasheen.
Check out this picture from Wikipedia. The malanga is a root vegetable like a potato, it’s starchy like a potato, it’s shaped like a sweet potato, but it has distinguishing characteristics. The exterior is covered in bark, and it feels less moisture-weighty than a potato. An intresting comparison happens when you get the peeled malanga wet – its starch becomes apparent and the moisture begins to feel almost sap-like and sticky. Immediately you can tell how well this vegetable works as a thickening agent.
I put together this wonderful vegetable soup to take advantage of the rich, earthy taste of mushrooms, spinach and today’s Ecuadorian choice, malanga.
Malanga Melange Soup
1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup warm water to reconstitute porcini
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 Portabella mushroom caps, slivered or diced
1 1/2 pounds malanga, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon crystals
6 cups organic chicken stock
1 pound spinach, loosely chopped
12 slices dry rubbed bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 teaspoon bacon grease
1 teaspoon butter
1 portabella mushroom cap, diced
Parmesan Reggiano for grating
1. In small bowl, combine dried porcini mushrooms and warm water. Set aside until mushrooms have plumped – about 30 minutes.
2. In soup pot over medium high heat, add oil and shallots. Brown slightly to release flavor. Add reconsituted mushrooms, Portabella mushrooms, malanga and seasonings. Saute for five minutes.
3. Add chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes until malanga begins to tenderize. Mash malanga in the pot to tiny, pea-sized bits.
4. Add spinach and cook 15 minutes more. Taste and adjust seasonings.
5. Saute remaining mushrooms in bacon grease and butter.
6. Ladel soup into bowls. Top with sauteed mushrooms and crumbled bacon. Use grated cheese, as desired. Serve this heart-healthy soup with freshly baked whole-grain bread.
Substitution note: Out of mushrooms or don’t have any dried? Feel free to substitute diced tomatoes instead.