Taro root is one of the healthiest treats you are missing out on right now. Each serving of cooked taro (3.5 oz) offers 5.1 grams of dietary fiber and less than .5 grams of sugar. That’s right–something filling and delicious, with less than 1% sugar! That’s right–something filling and delicious, with less than 1% sugar!It also has less calories than the average white potato, and fills you up because of its high fiber content. When boiled, the flavor is only mildly sweet and a bit nutty–a great side dish that be used as a substitute for potatoes.
Taro root looks like a mix between a yam and a coconut, with a tuber-like shape and scruffy brown skin that resembles a coconut shell. Since it often has a light purple hue internally, it’s often mixed up with ube, a popular Filipino food, because the literal translation of ube to English is purple yam. While both taro and ube are purple vegetables, you can tell them apart because ube is a richer purple color, and provides a sweeter flavor. Both plants have seemingly mangy exteriors, but taro skin looks much more like a coconut, while ube resembles a purple sweet potato.
Taro should be peeled prior to cooking. To prepare it at home, wash the outside very well to make sure to get all the debris from the hairy skin. If you have an allergic reaction to the taro root while you are peeling it, you can pop it in the microwave for a couple minutes (2-5 minutes), which will destroy the allergen.
It is great cubed and cooked alongside fish, or with salt and garlic. Despite its unusual appearance, taro makes a wonderful, healthy alternative to white potatoes at the dinner table. It can be used alongside most savory dishes, and tastes great with soy sauce, boiled in a soup or used as a filling for dumplings. While you can prepare taro root at home by boiling, mashing or baking, taro root can also be enjoyed in a wide variety of snack and desert foods. Fried taro sprinkled with sugar is a great Portuguese specialty, while taro chips are a fantastic Hawaiian snack food.
It grows well in countries like Nigeria, China and the Philippines and is popular all across South-East Asia. You might not be able to find taro in your standard supermarket, but most Asian and African grocery stores carry a broad stock of taro treats. If you are having trouble scoping out taro snacks, they go by many names, including: taro root, kolkas (Egypt), eddoe (India), and arrow root (East Africa).
Don’t be afraid to get creative–taro is popular all over the world for its wide variety of cooking applications, and its mild flavor ensures a happy palette.