Taro is a root vegetable with strong earthy flavors and is usually grown in tropical and subtropical regions. Growing up, I had the pleasure of enjoying a variety of taro dishes that Mama Lin prepared: steamed taro cake (芋頭糕/芋頭糍), steamed sticky rice with taro, and taro and ribs with black bean sauce to name a few. As much as I enjoy eating taro, I must admit that I didn’t start seriously cooking with it until recently.
FROM TARO FRITTERS TO TARO WAFFLES
Initially, I wanted to develop a taro fritter/latke recipe. I had a taro that was languishing in the fridge, and I decided to shred it in the food processor and pan fry it into small cakes. I fell in love with the fritters because of their earthy flavor, crispy exterior, and soft center.
Like I do with many other recipes, I called my mom to see if she had any suggestions about how I should develop this recipe. She experimented in her kitchen and sent along photos of how she would make the taro fritters. Instead of using a food processor, she sliced up the taro by hand and combined it with scallions and Chinese sausage (臘腸) for flavor. Then, she added Taiwanese-style sweet sweet potato flour (地瓜粉), an egg, and seasonings and pan fried the fritters. I took some of my mom’s ideas and started playing around with making a taro fritter recipe that would be vegetarian-friendly.
On a whim, I cooked the fritters in a waffle iron one day and discovered it was my preferred method of preparing these fritters. With the waffle iron, I didn’t need to supervise the cooking constantly–just put the mixture into the waffle iron, close the lid, and check back in 6 minutes. Furthermore, the waffle iron cooks both sides of the waffle simultaneously, which led to more even browning on the waffles. After testing the taro waffles a few more times, I settled on this recipe!
HOW TO MAKE TARO WAFFLES
USING THE RIGHT KIND OF TARO
For this recipe, you’ll need to use large taro that are often sold whole or chopped into large sections (usually weighing somewhere between 3 to 6 pounds). When you slice into the taro, you should be able to see lots of purple veins in the center. This variety of taro is starchy and has the earthy flavor that is best suited for this recipe. If you need tips on how to pick taro, watch this taro picking video that I filmed with my mom.
Don’t use small, furry-skinned taro for this recipe. This smaller variety has less earthy aroma and a slimy texture, which won’t work well with this taro waffle recipe. As an aside, we usually steam or boil small taro and dip the flesh in soy sauce mixed with sesame oil.
PREPARE THE TARO
The skin on the taro is thick and rough, so use a knife to slice off the skin. Cut the taro into 1 to 2-inch thick batons and grate them with a food processor or by hand. Transfer the grated taro to a large bowl.
ADDING SLICED SCALLIONS
To give the waffles more flavor, I’ve mixed in 1 cup of sliced scallions. I’ve also tried using green garlic and the green tops of spring onions and both work very well with this recipe.
To season the waffles, I’m using soy sauce and a spice mixture that consists of ground porcini mushrooms, kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, white pepper, and chili pepper flakes.
When I first cooked these waffles, I used Fly By Jing’s Mala Spice Mix because it’s one of my favorite all-purpose seasoning blends. The spice mix has a lot of umami flavor from mushrooms and seaweed. I’m sure not everyone has this spice mix readily in their pantry, so I created a spice mixture inspired by the Mala Spice Mix.
To make the porcini mushroom powder, I ground pieces of dried porcini mushrooms in a spice grinder. If you don’t have dried porcini mushrooms, you can use dried shiitake mushrooms.
COOKING TARO WAFFLES
Mix the spices with the taro and scallions, along with some oil and cassava flour. I found that the waffles come out a bit crispier when I add oil to the taro mixture. To make the waffles gluten free, I used cassava flour instead of all-purpose flour. That said, I cooked a batch using all-purpose flour and that works too.
Using your hands, mix the ingredients together for 1 to 2 minutes, until the taro mixture is moist. Grab a clump of the taro mixture and give it a squeeze. The taro mixture should hold its shape.
Grease the preheated waffle iron generously with oil. Measure a scant half cup of taro mixture and place it over one of the quadrants of the waffle iron. Using your fingers, carefully flatten the taro mixture slightly. Prepare 3 more waffles and close the waffle iron with the lid.
Cook the waffles over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes, until golden brown. My waffle iron cooks better on the bottom, so I usually flip the waffles over after 6 minutes of cooking and cook them for another 1 to 2 minutes. Flipping the waffles isn’t necessary–I just want the waffles to be more evenly golden.
Continue cooking the waffles with the remaining taro mixture. If you want to keep the earlier batches of waffles warm, heat your oven to 225ºF (110ºC). Place the cooling rack with the cooked waffles over a large baking sheet and transfer the baking sheet to the oven.
Serve the taro waffles while they’re still warm. Enjoy them on their own or with my sweet chili sauce. If you’ve been to a farmers market in the Bay Area or Davis, you might be familiar with Bolani’s Garlic Mint Yogurt. The waffles are great with that yogurt sauce.
HOW TO REHEAT TARO WAFFLES
The easiest way to reheat the waffles is to heat them in your toaster, like you would with flour-based waffles. You can also place them on a baking sheet and heat them in the oven at 350ºF (175ºF) for 5 to 7 minutes with room temperature waffles; 8 to 10 minutes for refrigerated waffles.
CAN YOU FREEZE TARO WAFFLES?
Yes, these waffles freeze very nicely! Freeze them on a baking sheet or large plates lined with parchment paper. Then, store them in freezer bags or containers. When you’re ready to eat the taro waffles, pop them onto a baking sheet and heat them in the oven at 350ºF (175ºF) for 10 to 12 minutes, until the waffles are heated through. You can also heat them in the toaster.
- 1 1/2 pounds (680g) peeled large taro, (see note 1)
- 1 cup (90g) packed sliced scallions, (see note 2)
- 1/4 cup (35g) cassava flour, can sub with all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the waffle iron
- 2 teaspoons mushroom powder, (see note 3)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons (4g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, 5/8 teaspoon if using table or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
- sweet chili sauce to serve, optional
- food processor or box grater
- 4-slice waffle iron
- Preheat the waffle iron and set to medium heat.
- Cut the taro into 1 to 2-inch thick batons. Then, grate the taro with a food processor or by hand. Transfer the grated taro to a large bowl. (See note 4 about cutting taro by hand)
- Add the sliced scallions, cassava flour (or all-purpose flour), soy sauce, oil, mushroom powder, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, white pepper, and chili flakes to the bowl. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together for 1 to 2 minutes, until the taro mixture is moist. Grab a clump of the taro mixture and give it a squeeze. The taro mixture should hold its shape.
- Grease the waffle iron generously with oil. Measure a scant half cup of taro mixture and place it over one of the quadrants of the waffle iron. Using your fingers, flatten the mixture slightly. Prepare 3 more waffles and close the waffle iron with the lid. Cook the waffles for 6 to 8 minutes, until golden brown (see note 5). Transfer the cooked waffles to a cooling rack.
- Continue cooking the waffles with the remaining taro mixture. If you want to keep the earlier batches of waffles warm, heat your oven to 225ºF (110ºC). Place the cooling rack with the cooked waffles over a large baking sheet and place the baking sheet and waffles into the oven.
- Serve the taro waffles while they’re still warm. Enjoy them on their own or with sweet chili sauce.
- Make sure you use the large variety of taro and not the small ones with a furry skin. Small taro doesn’t have as much earthy flavor and has a slight slimy texture that wouldn’t work well for this recipe. I typically buy a large taro of at least 3 pounds and slice the proper amount for this recipe. The skin on the taro is thick and rough, so use a knife to slice off the skin. If you have leftover taro, consider using it to cook my mom’s steamed sticky rice!
- You can substitute scallions with green garlic or the tops of spring onions.
- I made the mushroom powder by grinding dried porcini mushrooms in my spice grinder. Dried shiitake mushrooms work very well, too. You can use any leftover mushroom powder to season soups, jook/congee, or stir fries!
- Hand cutting taro: One of my readers told me that the taro tends to be drier when you hand cut it into smaller pieces. As a result, the taro mixture will be dry and and won’t hold together. You can add an egg to the taro mixture (if you’re not vegan) to get the taro to stick together. Alternatively, you can add a few splashes of water and a bit more flour to the mixture. Squeeze some of the mixture to see if it holds together.
- My waffle iron cooks better on the bottom, so I usually flip the waffles over after 6 minutes of cooking and cook them for another 1 to 2 minutes. Flipping the waffles isn’t necessary–I just want the waffles to be more evenly golden.
- Reheating Directions: The easiest way to reheat the taro waffles is to pop them into your toaster, like you would with flour-based waffles. You can also bake them in the oven at 350ºF (175ºF) for 5 to 7 minutes with room temperature waffles; 8 to 10 minutes for refrigerated waffles; and 10 to 12 minutes for frozen waffles.
- Making Taro Fritters Instead of Waffles: If you don’t have a waffle iron, you can make taro fritters with this recipe. Measure 1/4 cup portions of the taro mixture and shape them into a cake and flatten slightly. Cook the fritters over medium to medium-low heat for 6 to 7 minutes, flipping halfway. Break open one of the fritters to make sure the center is cooked through before removing them from the pan. If you find the mixture difficult to shape into cakes, try adding in an egg. This recipe makes about 12 to 13 fritters.
- Feel free to play around with the seasoning blend. If you have Fly By Jing’s Mala Spice Mix in your pantry, add it to the taro mixture! Replace the mushroom powder, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, and chili flakes with 2 tablespoons of the Mala Spice Mix.