In Mario Castillo’s previous life, he was a restaurateur and hotelier. He enjoys cooking cuisine from his native country of Venezuela as well as getting creative and making a fusion of dishes from other countries like Italy and France. Currently, he is the founder of Turpial Travel and lives with his wife Joanne in Long Beach, California. They invited me over for Mario’s version of Buñuelos, a South American speciality of sweet yucca fritters.
Mario had lived in the city while growing up in Venzuela, and at that point he had only heard about them. He informed me that even today, they are mainly available in the remote towns in Venzuela where they harvest yucca potatoes. At the age of 22, Mario moved to Choroni, a small village on the coast when he tried Buñuelos for the first time. While he was at the beach, a mother was selling Buñuelos to raise money so that her son could go to the University. Mario bought and loved it. Buñuelos are deep fried, so they are crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, and the combination of the sweet syrup and the mild saltiness from the cheese bring delicious mix of flavors and textures to your palate. Two come in a serving, but I had to have one more!
According to Mario, Buñuelos are primarily seasonal snack that is made from the leftover yucca harvest. Mario also makes the syrup from scratch. I must admit, I was thrilled when my dear friend Joanne married him-he makes some of the best homemade meals I have ever had!
Buñuelos is a more complex recipe, and I recommend it for the seasoned cook. In Venezuela they eat it as an afternoon snack or dessert. With the syrup, Buñuelos is perfect for brunch, and great as a starter dish or dessert.
- **BUNUELOS INGREDIENTS (1.5 hours prep/cook time)
- 1 Large Yucca Potato (or two medium sized)
- 2 egg yolks (no white)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- Grape seed oil (canola oil okay)
- 8 ounces of queso fresco cheese cut into small cubes
- **SYRUP INGREDIENTS (30 minutes prep/cook time)
- 8 ounces of brown sugar
- ½ cup of water
- 3 inch cinammon stick
- **BUNUELOS INSTRUCTIONS: Submerge one peeled yucca potato in a pot and boil for one hour
- Cut into small cut into cubes and remove inedible fibrous vein at the center of yucca
- Mash into and add the egg yolks and salt. Mix well until smooth with no chunks.
- In a medium sized sauce pan, add grape seed oil and heat on medium high heat for about 5-7 minutes until oil is hot enough to fry yucca.
- Take two spoons (as shown on image in post) and form about 1.5 inch round balls. Drop one into pot. Repeat. Only put two-three fritters in at a time.
- Fry bunuelos until golden brown and place on a plate with paper towels to release excess oils.
- Plate two at a time in a bowl or small serving plate. Add a few cubes of cheese and pour syrup over. Best served immediately.
- *SYRUP INSTRUCTIONS: Bring water to a boil in a sauce pan and add brown sugar
- Reduce heat to medium and stir well until sugar is completed dissolved
- Reduce heat to low and add cinnamon stick for ten minutes
- Remove from heat and set aside