(Gluten-Free Plantain and Cornmeal Rings )
Sweet and Savoury Mandocas is a Venezuelan specialty exclusively found in the western area of the Country in the Zulia State.
These are a fried dough made of precooked cornmeal*, very ripe plantains**, hard fresh white cheese, and papelon” (also called panela). They are normally served as breakfast but can be perfectly sneak in an afternoon tea, as a snack or finger food, best accompanied with more cheese on top and a coffee.
Though Zulians might be very jealous about their traditional recipe, it’s been slowly spreading across Venezuela, I first came across these little rings while traveling to the Andean Region of Venezuelan many many years ago when I was about 14 years of age, since then mum and I had been trying to reproduce the delicious treats, back then we could hardly find any blogs or books featuring the recipe, nor anyone that would know about this dish as we were living in the other side of the country, so at first we came in with our own version, which had been perfected over the years.
Now this version is my latest twist to the traditional Mandocas, and it has a cheeky extra step that takes this recipe to the roof in flavour, and that is the extra addition of fried plantain pieces so you find little pockets of sweet ripe plantain with every bite, I also like to serve it with my spiced panela honey which you can find here, or I simple panela syrup I am going to post along with this recipe plus more grated cheese of course. They are best eaten right away, delicious, and always a crowd-pleaser at home, you will have to take them away so you don’t eat them all at once.
Tips to make Venezuelan Mandocas
- Precooked Cornmeal flour is a staple in Venezuelan cuisine, it is made by cooking the dried white or yellow corn kernels to remove the exterior and then grind and dry again to make a coarse powder that it’s rehydrated with water to make dough for arepas, bollos, and many other dishes popular in Latin America and the Caribbean. Precooked cornmeal is very different from cornflour which is the starch only, and polenta flour which is coarse grated dried corn and it has not been precooked, cornmeal flour cannot be substituted for Mexican Masa either as this flour has a totally different flavour profile due to the nixtamalization process. To buy Precooked cornmeal flour you can go to a specialty Latin or Spanish deli stores or buy it online, there are several brands found in Australia but my preferred one is yellow cornmeal from the brand P.A.N., but you can also use Masa Arepa, or similar flour to make arepas. In Melbourne, find it in Casa Iberica Stores. Or online Amazon, Ebay or specialty websites like Chile Mojo, Harris Farm Market , Naturitas.
- The recipe calls for Panela, which is an unrefined sugar made out of evaporated sugarcane juice which is used widely in Latin American / South American desserts, adding special notes of earthy and caramel molasses-like flavour, also known as piloncillo, chancaca, and rapadura sugar, which can be found in specialty stores where you find Spanish, South American products and it comes in blocks which can be melted with water or grated, nowadays in Australia you can easily find PANELA or RAPADURA sugar from the baking section in Woolworths or Coles under the brand Panela Macro Organic and Panela Organic Mountain and comes already grated, you can use CSR Rapadura sugar as well but it will be slightly less sweet than the Panela sugars.
- Plantains are very different to bananas so beware when buying this ingredient as you won’t get the same results if using bananas. Plantains or Cooking bananas are a lot more starchy and can withstand long cooking times, they taste astringent when eaten raw so they are best when eaten cooked when green they add savoury and acidity notes to the dish, and when ripe they turn very sweet and their flavour profile is a lot more dominant than bananas. In order to find them in Melbourne, I recommend visiting Footscray or Victoria Market or Asian specialty stores, any South African Markets will stock them too, for this recipe they really need to be ripe, so look for deep yellow ones with black spots, the blacker the better as they will be really sweet or buy them slightly unripe and let them ripe in your bench, depending on how green they are they can take up to a week to reach full maturity, it is difficult to buy them ripe due to the process they overtake to bring them to Australia so they generally come green, but due to their versatility in Latin and Caribbean cuisine I tend to buy a good bunch of green ones and reserve some for recipes that call for ripe ones and then use them when they ready
- Fresh hard cheese, Latin hard cheeses are also difficult to find, the main point here is that the cheese needs to add saltiness, a few sour notes, and has to have a high melting point as the Mandocas are going to be deep-fried for a few minutes so I settled myself for Halloumi Cheese, or Australian Feta, use anything similar to these two and you’ll be good to go, if you opt to leave the cheese out you will need to adjust salt levels.
- There are not many technical elements rather than the ingredients above, working with cornmeal flour is great cause the dough consistency can be adjusted easily without spoiling the whole dish as it’s very forgiving. To make this recipe you will need to blanch the plantains, and shallow fry part of the plantain, grate the cheese and make light syrupy water with the panela and spices, and then knead your dough and leave to rest a few minutes, then form the mandocas which I will leave a small video on how to make that (this can be time-consuming) and then deep-fried and drain them, prepare your garnishes and serve.
Venezuelan MandocasCourse: BreakfastCuisine: Street Food, Latin, VenezuelanDifficulty: Medium
Gluten-Free Plantain and Cornmeal Rings
- Venezuelan Mandocas
2 sweet ripe plantain or cooking bananas (aprox. 300gr when weighted)
250 g yellow precooked cornmeal
250 g panela or rapadura sugar
2 star anise
2 tbsp aniseed
2 1/2 c water
250 g feta cheese or halloumi grated
1 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
vegetable oil to fry
- Panela Syrup
1 tsp aniseeds (or 2 tsp fennel seeds)
1 tsp butter
- Venezuelan Mandocas
- Cut 1 plantain in smaller pieces, and place in a small sauce pan cover with water, simmer until tender (when you can pierce it easily to reach the centre, it can be cooked with the skin), about 8-10min.
- Remove the skin of the plantain and mash, reserve and let cool to room temperature.
- Peel the second plantain and cut diagonally in 1/2 cm slices.
- Shallow fry them in batches turning from time to time to allow for the slices to caramelice and cook evenly until dark golden, drain in a paper towel, then roughly cut in smaller pieces of about 1/2 to 1 cm.
- In a small saucepan, add 1 cup of water and 250g of panela, along with the half the aniseed and star anis, and cook until sugar has dissolve, reomve from the stove and add the rest of the water to help to cool it down, continue cooling until it reaches room temperature, then pass through a sieve to remove the anis.
- In a large bowl place the mashed plantain and the panela water, add the tsp of salt, and slowly incorporate the cornmeal sprinkling on top and whisking continuosly to avoid any lumps continue whisking until it start setting.
- Use a spatula or your hands to fold the fried plantain, the other half of aniseed and the grated cheese in a few strokes, don’t overmix so there’s traces of plantain and cheese in the dough.
- Let it rest covered for 5 min to fully hydrate and test, it should have the consistency of playdough, if it’s too runny you can incorporate couple of tablespoons of cornmeal, and if it’s to hard to work you can add more water bit by bit to soften.
- Grab balls of about 2-3 cm and roll into a long log of about 1/2 cm and cut to 14-15cm long, join ends making little loops and place them in a flat surface or a plate, reserve until frying.
- Heat the oil to medium heat and fry in batches until golden brown turning half way to cook evenly, it should take 5-6 min to cook each batch depending on how big your mandocas are.
- Remove from oil and drain excess oil over paper towels.
- Serve inmediately with extra grated cheese and panela syrup.
- Panela Syrup
- Meanwhile place in a saucepan all the ingredients for the panela syrup and bring to the boil at medium heat let simmer for about 10 min until you get a syrupy consistency, strain and set aside to cool a bit.