Iron Chef Challenge: Taro!

My friend Karen is a fantastic chef and does her own iron chef challenge.  I was very excited to do this challenge with her.

The rules:

— you find out your secret ingredient at noon
— you must come up with four dishes, buy everything, and cook by dinnertime.
— The catch: you cannot look up any recipes or cookbook

I came up with several potential secret ingredients and mom selected taro to be secret ingredient. Initially, I was like “omg, wait…taro… TARO?? This is gonna be so hard!” when I realized neither of us ever cooked with taro before. I’ve never made up my own dishes, but fortunately, I’ve been cooking so much lately, it wasn’t too bad coming up with stuff. I LOVE taro and it’s a versatile ingredient.

#1 vegetable chips with tempura sauce

Used 2 types of taro and 2 types of sweet potato, cut into slices, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper and baked in oven 400 degrees for 40 min. Topped with black sesame seeds and served with tempura sauce to dip.

#2 mashed taro cakes with chili eggplant and green beans
I love dimsum taro cake with chili oil, which was inspiration for this dish. This is like the green beans and mashed potato side, excep Asian.

Taro portion: 
Boil taro for 15 min, and mash, adding a little milk to make smoother. Add cilantro, garlic powder, salt, pepper, green onions. Sautee shrimp (used same pan as the one used for vegetables for flavor), dice and add to taro. Dice Chinese pork BBQ and also add and mix
Vegetables portion: 
Sautee green beans and eggplant with vegetable oil, cooking wine, soy sauce. Add sambal balado chili relish (chili paste introduced to me by my neighbor, apparently chili pepper or green chili is blended together with garlic, shallot, red or green tomato, salt and lemon or lime juice, then sauteed with oil). Add water chestuts.

#3 Watercress Pork Rib Stew with Taro Gnocchi
Boil pork ribs, taro, carrots, onions. Add salt to taste. Add taro gnocchi and watercress, cover lid and let simmer.

Taro Gnocchi: (Gnocchi is a potato dumpling), mix mashed taro (boil beforehand), green onions, salt, pepper, garlic powder, milk, flour. Roll into ovals/balls and drop in boiling water to cook (they sink initially but will float to top when done)

#4 Taro Buko Banana Pie
3 cups taro, boiled and mashed
1/3 can coconut milk
1 cup shredded coconut meat
1/3 cup can condensed milk
2 small bananas (1 mashed, 1 to decorate)
1 egg
pie crust

Preheat oven and bake piecrust for ~10 min

For filling, boil taro and mash in saucepan (3 cups). Add coconut milk (1/3 can), condensed milk (1/3-1/2 cup), shredded coconut (1 cup) and stir over heat to thicken. Add mashed banana (adjust amount of banana so just hint of flavor). Temper with 1 egg by adding some taro filling to whisked egg, mix to heat egg, and add egg mixture slowly to saucepan so egg doesn’t scramble. Stir until thick. To adjust consistency you can probably add coconut juice or evaporated/regular milk (our coconut meat had some ice)

Add filling to piecrust and bake for another 20-25 min, until crust is golden brown. Slice banana and use to garnish.

Notes: Afterwards I googled taro pie/pudding and nothing similar came up… I’m so delighted we came up with a new dish. I was hesitant about bananas, but it really added a nice depth of flavor.

Pie crust makes it look really pretty, but I actually didn’t care for the crust (though I think maybe not we didn’t bake it enough) The filling is great on its own without any crust, and I maybe could add tapioca.

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