CHAMORU SWEET TAMÅLES MENDIOKA
It has been a while since the very first time I prepared sweet tamȧles in 1994. Tamȧles mendioka is made of grated tapioca or mendioka, young coconut or månha, sugar, and sometimes coconut milk. Of course, you can use fresh mendioka, but it is hard work to skin and grate the root.
Growing up on Guam in the 70s to early 90s, I have always seen tamȧles made wrapped in foil. However, I have since learned that many foods were wrapped in banana leaves before World War II. A similar dessert, apigige', is made with the same ingredients but wrapped and grilled in banana leaves instead of steamed – I’ve never seen apigige' wrapped in foil. Apigige' tends to be drier in texture compared to tamȧles mendioka. Tamȧles mendioka are also thicker than apigige' and noticeably sweeter. Remember biting into that big hunk of sweet, chewy, coconuty-tapioca-y goodness?
When cooking this tamȧles in banana leaves, there is an earthy aroma and flavor that is imparted to the tamȧles. Just a head’s up if you’ve always eaten tamȧles mendioka wrapped in foil.
Note that if you are using fresh mȧnha instead of from a can, you should use the fresh, yummy mȧnha juice. If you are using mȧnha from the can, coconut milk may be a better instead of the liquid in the can – you’ll have to try both and see which you prefer.
Way back when, fresh tapioca and mȧnha were picked compared to today’s convenience of frozen produce. Tamȧles mendioka also used to be boiled in banana leaves instead of steamed. Over the years, folks have not only used foil, but have also steamed tamȧles instead of boiling them in water. That said, here are a few things to keep in mind depending on your cooking method.
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