Taro/taro root or colocasia as it’s sometimes called is a starchy vegetable of the taro plant. Native to India and South-East Asia, taro also forms a staple in diets in Hawaii, the Caribbean and Africa. Taro ‘root’ is actually the corm—swollen underground stem—of the plant, so technically not a root. Just some casual food semantics for you! The leaves and the bulbous vegetable are both edible in its cooked form, but toxic when uncooked. But worry not, I got you covered.

I want to be upfront with you here though. Although the recipe is titled ‘oven-roasted’, it actually uses three different methods of cooking: boiling, (oven) roasting and stir-frying. As cumbersome as this process may sound, the effort on your part is quite minimal and not so hands-on as the traditional stove-top method.

Taro—being as slimy as okra innards—needs to be boiled first to peel away the skins. I use a pressure-cooker here to speed up this process, but just a regular boil in a pot is plenty sufficient. Once the slippery skins have been peeled off, they are traditionally sliced into thin rounds and pan-fried with oil and spices until golden on the outside. This method works brilliantly and tastes great, but my issue with it is this: taro, like most starchy vegetables, guzzles oil. Also, it takes a long time to get it evenly golden on the outside (and it never goes crispy unless deep-fried). Oven-roasting addresses both of these problems. Roasting the thin slices at a high temperature with the scantiest drizzle of oil ensures a good crunch and even cooking. The last stage of pan-frying takes seconds to do where the taro slices are tossed with chilli, salt and curry leaves.



OVEN-ROASTED TARO

Servings: 4 (as a side)

Ingredients

  • 500 grams taro
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (or any oil)
  • 1 1/4 tsp sambar chilli powder (or plain chilli powder)
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  • Add the taro to a pot of boiling water and cook until a knife inserted into the biggest one yields without any resistance. Alternatively, use a pressure cooker.
  • Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F).
  • Soak the taro in a bowl of cold water. Take one out and peel away the outer skin with a knife. It will be very sticky at this stage so use a cloth or dip your hands in water a few times to get this job done. Repeat until you have peeled them all.
  • Slice peeled taro into ¼ inch rounds. Add the taro slices to a bowl and toss them with 1 tbsp of oil.
  • Rub some oil all over the baking tray (don’t use foil/paper of any kind). Place the sliced taro in an even layer; make sure they don’t overlap. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden and crispy. Check a few times towards the end to make sure they don’t burn.
  • Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a heavy-based pan (preferably cast-iron) and toss in the curry leaves. Once they start to splutter, add the taro slices. Sprinkle over salt and chilli powder and coat the slices evenly. Serve immediately.

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