Existing in the shadow of the great Hawaiian taro is its petite cousin, araimo, or Japanese taro. Although Hawaiian taro reigns supreme in the islands, araimo is the preferred taro variety for a number of Asian-based dishes.
KEY INGREDIENT: ARAIMO
It has a milder, less starchy flavor and is easier to prepare.
The basics: Araimo, also known as dasheen, is the tuber of a dry-land taro variety. Like its Hawaiian counterpart, it has a hairy, brown, coarse exterior with a white-to-light-gray interior. The corm grows only 2 to 3 inches in length, similar to the size of a new potato.
Selecting: Depending on the time of year, different grades of araimo are sold. The premium grade, in its sweet and petite package, is your best bet. Look for unblemished tubers, free of mold and soft spots. It should smell clean and fresh, not moldy or musty.
Storing: Store like potatoes in the refrigerator for up to a week. Or, leave it out in a cool and dry place for a couple of days.
Use: Rinse to remove dirt and grit. Leaving the skins on, boil araimo five to 10 minutes (araimo cannot be eaten raw). The skin should easily peel off, and the cooked flesh should have a slightly glutinous texture. Cut corms in half, cube or leave them whole, depending on size. Araimo does well in stewed and braised dishes, as well as soups. Add it toward the end of the preparation so it doesn't get mushy.
Try an easy, sweet Okinawan treat called ringaku: Add sugar and a dash of mirin to the taro while still hot. Stir constantly until taro is slightly mashed and becomes gooey. Enjoy as a hot or cold snack.
Where to buy: Araimo is available year-round but is especially abundant at the end of the year, as it is a staple in Japanese dishes celebrating the New Year. It runs $2.29 to $4.99 in supermarkets, although better prices can be found in Chinatown or farmers' markets.
Food Stuffs: Morsels
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Asterisk (*) after nutritional analyses
indicates calculations by
Joannie Dobbs of Exploring New Concepts,
a nutritional consulting firm.