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Casabe - An ancient culinary legacy in the Dominican Republic


Casabe has been a staple of the Dominican diet since the times of the Taino Indians, and the process of making it has not changed all that much over the years. What is this Casabe and how is it made? Where can you find the best Casabe in the Dominican Republic? more...


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Casabe has been a staple of the Dominican diet since the times of the Taino Indians, and the process of making it has not changed all that much over the years. What is this Casabe and how is it made? Where can you find the best Casabe in the Dominican Republic?

Casabe is an ancient Dominican cracker made from just one ingredient: yucca (also known as cassava or tapioca-root). Yucca is one of the most abundant crops on the island, which makes the production of casaba very inexpensive. With the exception of a few larger casabe factories of the island, casabe workshops are usually family businesses.

For the most part, the process of making casaba has remained unchanged throughout the centuries. The yucca plant is uprooted 9 months after being planted. The leaves and stems are discarded (only the thick tubular roots of the plant are eaten) and a small piece of the root is saved for replanting.

The yucca root has a rough brown exterior and a brilliant white center. The brown peel is removed and thrown out while the white part is thoroughly washed before being grated with the finest side of a Dominican grater, called a guayo. These yucca crumbles are strained and then pressed tightly to remove a starchy liquid. The yucca can be pressed with a sebucan (a native instrument made of palm frond fibers developed by the Taino Indians especially for this purpose), a press, or a simple towel twisted firmly. Many modern chefs refrigerate the yucca crumbles in order to dehumidify them, but the Taino Indians obviously did not have this luxury.

Finally the yucca crumbles are formed into round crackers over special outdoor wood-burning griddle called a budare. There is also a stovetop method for modern cooks: a non-stick pan is placed over medium heat and the shredded yucca is placed on the bottom of the pan. Then the yucca is then cooked for 1 minute before being flipped and cooked for another minute. Finally the casabe cracker is transferred to an oven that has been pre-heated to 250°F. With the traditional budare, the cooking process may take a bit longer (depending on the flame of the fire), but once it comes off this rustic griddle it is ready to eat.

The final product is a delicious crunchy bread that is a great addition to any meal. It is a vessel that absorbs other flavors and perfect for eating with salsa or for dipping in soups - like the traditional Dominican sancocho soup. It is rich in fiber and has 0 grams of fat, cholesterol and sodium. In contrast with traditional breads, it does not grow mold easily - giving it a shelf life of 6-8 months.

New scrumptious variations of casabe have been developed; such as peanut, parmesan or garlic casabe. But the main ingredient is always yucca.

The town of Monción is famous for its large casabe production, and the road towards San Jose de las Matas has several casaberas (casabe making workshops) that produce some of the best in the country. Dominicans traveling to the town of San Jose de las Matas consider the casabera to be an obligatory road stop.

Perhaps you’d like to try this ancient bread during your next stay in the Dominican Republic.

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