Accras, Haitian Appetizer
The appetizers pictured above, known as accras, don’t ask for much to disappear on a plate. Don’t fry them quickly enough and you will get a riot at a family dinner, at my family dinners at least.
Just two weeks ago, we all gathered to celebrate a cousin’s First Communion – First Communions in Haiti are always followed by a big dinner celebration – and as with most communions, fritay was on the menu in the form of accras, among other things.
Perhaps one of the best moments that day, was when someone split an accra in three to share with those at his table just to prove to the other table that they knew what the word sharing meant on that side of the room. If you know how small accras are you understand why this was a laughable moment. Indeed, one accras can be gobbled up in just one bite.
As the above story shows, in my family, there is never a dull moment when accras are featured on the appetizer menu, simply because, since they are served right out of the oil, they come around slowly and can’t always reach us all at once. After all, our small family gatherings typically have no less than 50 people, without counting the friends that join us. The result? Moments of sarcasm, friendly shouting, laughter; a fun family atmosphere, if you ask me.
These popular bite-sized appetizers are prepared with malanga, better known as taro root in most places around the world. The root is peeled, grated into a paste that is seasoned and fried by the spoonful. An egg is often added to the mix, which results in smoother accras (recipe below).
As with most fritay, the accras come out of the hot oil crispy on the outside and a bit chewy on the inside. Accras are at their best when they have just the right amount of piment bouc. And if you read over my previously published Piment Bouc & the Red Faced Guy article, you will recall that piman bouc is at the core of our Haitian cuisine and most definitely of my family table.
You will therefore also understand why in my family accras are so famous, and why we compete for them. The first victim of our jokes is typically the person whose job is to bring out the plate. Regardless of where one is sitting, it always seems like the server always heads in the opposite direction, towards another table.
Is it hunger? Greed? Knowing that there won’t be enough for everyone to be served at once? Or that people will grab as many as they can before sending the plate around? Or simply that accras are one of the best Haitian appetizers?
Regardless of the answer, one thing is certain; if you want to bring life to a party, bring out the accras!
- Malanga (taro root)
- Salt & Pepper
- Green Onion
- Piment Bouc
- Peel the malanga and grate. Set aside
- Using a mortar and pestle, mash the seasonings to a paste
- Mix in the mashed ingredients with the grated malanga. Mash the mix
- Adjust the seasoning to taste
- Add one egg to the mix for a smoother paste (optional)
- Heat the oil
- Drop the mix by the spoonful in the hot oil until the accras turn golden
- Serve hot with pikliz on the side if you wish.