Stewed Taro Leaves Recipe | Brede Songe Touffé


Stewed taro leaves is a classic Mauritian recipe. Leaves of the taro plant are cooked over a long period of time with light spices, tomatoes and tamarind. The result is a creamy silky texture that is really unlike any other greens.

stewed taro leaves, brede songe touffé

Nothing speaks home louder than greens prepared the traditional way. Even during my pre-vegan days, what I missed most from the food from back home was neither the meat nor the fish. It was the local greens – chayote greens, pumpkin greens, garden nightshade greens and my favourite of them all – taro greens. Chayote and pumpkin (when in season) are quite easy to find but I have never come across their greens being sold anywhere outside of Mauritius. The same goes for fresh taro greens. I often buy the roots at my local Asian or Indian store; you have probably seen them in a couple our grocery haul videos (on our YouTube channel).  Taro roots make great substitutes for regular potatoes in many preparations like stews and curries. They are starchier and make a creamier sauce.

The leaves of the taro plant lend themselves to many preparations in different regions and cuisines. Stewed with some light spices, tomatoes and sometimes tamarind is how they are more commonly prepared in Mauritius and how I love them. Stewed taro greens are often served with roti along with white bean curry and rougaille sauce.

stewed taro leaves, brede songe touffé

The taro plant usually grows along river banks and marshy lands in warm weather. So, by now you might be wondering how I came across them in Canada. I grew them! I did not think they would grow but they did. Sometimes when I buy the roots, a few of them would start the sprout before I have a chance to eat them. So, I decided to just plant them in some soil in a pot and see what happens. I guess the conditions must have somehow been favourable since they grew, nice and strong. And they produced the most beautiful large leaves. During the summer months, I’ve kept them on the balcony and by the beginning of Fall, we had enough leaves for a good meal.

The variety that I’ve grown is from the white taro roots. They produce leaves and stems (which are also known as corms) of a green colour. The purple variety produces stems of a purplish colour and they are somewhat tougher to cook. In fact both varieties of leaves need to be properly cooked over a long period of time before consuming. This is because taro greens contain a fair amount of calcium oxalate which is a naturally occurring pesticide in many plants. They are tiny needle-like crystals. Eating raw or half-cooked taro leaves can cause uncomfortable itching in the mouth and throat. It is therefore important to cook the leaves thoroughly over a long period of time to destroy this substance. When cooked for at least 45 minutes, the taro leaves are perfectly safe for consumption.

Stewed taro leaves result in a distinctly creamy silky texture that is really unlike any other greens. The closest in texture to taro greens might probably be spinach if cooked for long enough but nevertheless their taste is quite unmatched.

When it comes to their nutritional profile, taro leaves are a good source of folate and vitamin C.

 

Where to find taro leaves

You might be able to find taro leaves at some Asian or Caribbean stores depending on regions. So, you may want to have a look if you want to give them a try. Or you can try and grow them from the roots in pots at home.

 

Taro Leaf Tidbit

There is a saying in the Mauritian language that says “dilo lor brede sonze” which means “water on the taro leaf” or more precisely referring to the state of being like the taro leaf where water cannot wet it. Due to the nanoscopic structure of the taro leaves, water does not adhere to it. It rolls along the surface like pearls and while doing so, it also cleanses the leaves by removing dirt from it. This self-cleaning capability is also known as the lotus effect. So, this expression is often used in a situation where for example someone is experiencing some negative criticism that is mostly inflicted out of spite by someone else. So, this saying serves as a reminder to remain like the taro leaf, that is being unaffected by the situation and be able to rise above it.

 

Watch the video tutorial for the step by step process on how to prepare the leaves and make this recipe.

Mauritian Stewed Taro Leaves

Brede Songe Touffé

Ingredients (serve 3)

300 g (about 10 – 12, depending on size) taro leaves and stems

1 shallot or small onion (red or white)

1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon minced ginger (watch this video for some tips on how to mince and store ginger)

¾ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ cup [60g] chopped tomatoes (either canned or fresh)

½ teaspoon tamarind paste, diluted in a little warm water to remove the seeds (optional, omit if tomatoes are sour)

½ cup [75g] chickpeas (cooked), optional

1 tablespoon cooking (or sunflower) oil

Salt to taste

 

Start by preparing the taro leaves and stems.

Separate the leaves from the stems by cutting them right at the base of the leaf.

The stems contain a substance that can cause irritation if they come into contact with the skin. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to wear rubber gloves while preparing the taro leaves.

Wash the stems. Then peel and cut into small pieces. If the stems are rather tender, I usually do not peel them. I just cut them into smaller pieces. When cooked for long enough the stems will melt along with the leaves.

Cut the leaves in half lengthwise. Then stack a few and roll them. Cut across into very thin ribbons. Cutting them thinly will allow them to cook better into a smooth texture. Once cut wash them thoroughly and drain the water.

Keep the leaves and stem pieces separate as we are going to start cooking the stems first.

In a large pan on medium-high, add one tablespoon of cooking oil.

Add in the minced ginger followed by the chopped onions and garlic. Saute for about 1 minute.

Add the cumin and a little water if required, if the onions are sticking to the pan.

Next add in the stems. Stir, add little water and then cover. Let them cook for about 10 minutes.

Add in the leaves and just a little salt to help the greens cook. Don’t add too much salt at this stage as you may be misguided by the volume of the leaves and the dish might end up too salty.

Add a little water, stir and then cover.  Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 45 minutes.

Stir occasionally during this time and add water as needed so that the greens do not stick to the pan. You may mash the leaves to help them reach a creamy texture.

After about 45 minutes of cooking, the taro leaves will change colour to a deeper green.

Add the chopped tomatoes and diluted tamarind paste (if using).

Add the chickpeas. Stir, then cover and let cook for another 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and adjust the salt if necessary.

Serve with roti or rice accompanied by some other curries like a butter bean or white bean curry and condiments like our tamarind chutney and assorted pickles.

Stewed Taro Leaves Recipe | Brede Songe Touffé
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Stewed taro leaves is a classic Mauritian recipe. Leaves of the taro plant are cooked over a long period of time with light spices, tomatoes and tamarind. The result is a creamy silky texture that is really unlike any other greens.
Author:
Recipe type: side dish
Cuisine: Mauritian
Yield: 3 servings
Ingredients
  • 300 g (about 10 - 12, depending on size) taro leaves and stems
  • 1 shallot or small onion (red or white)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger (watch this video for some tips on how to mince and store ginger)
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ cup [60g] chopped tomatoes (either canned or fresh)
  • ½ teaspoon tamarind paste, diluted in a little warm water to remove the seeds (optional, omit if tomatoes are sour)
  • ½ cup [75g] chickpeas (cooked), optional
  • 1 tablespoon cooking (or sunflower) oil
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Start by preparing the taro leaves and stems.
  2. Separate the leaves from the stems by cutting them right at the base of the leaf.
  3. The stems contain a substance that can cause irritation if they come into contact with the skin. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to wear rubber gloves while preparing the taro leaves.
  4. Wash the stems. Then peel and cut into small pieces. If the stems are rather tender, I usually do not peel them. I just cut them into smaller pieces. When cooked for long enough the stems will melt along with the leaves.
  5. Cut the leaves in half lengthwise. Then stack a few and roll them. Cut across into very thin ribbons. Cutting them thinly will allow them to cook better into a smooth texture. Once cut wash them thoroughly and drain the water.
  6. Keep the leaves and stem pieces separate as we are going to start cooking the stems first.
  7. In a large pan on medium-high, add one tablespoon of cooking oil.
  8. Add in the minced ginger followed by the chopped onions and garlic. Saute for about 1 minute.
  9. Add the cumin and a little water if required, if the onions are sticking to the pan.
  10. Next add in the stems. Stir, add little water and then cover. Let them cook for about 10 minutes.
  11. Add in the leaves and just a little salt to help the greens cook. Don’t add too much salt at this stage as you may be misguided by the volume of the leaves and the dish might end up too salty.
  12. Add a little water, stir and then cover. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 45 minutes.
  13. Stir occasionally during this time and add water as needed so that the greens do not stick to the pan. You may mash the leaves to help them reach a creamy texture.
  14. After about 45 minutes of cooking, the taro leaves will change colour to a deeper green.
  15. Add the chopped tomatoes and diluted tamarind paste (if using).
  16. Add the chickpeas. Stir, then cover and let cook for another 10 minutes.
  17. Turn off the heat and adjust the salt if necessary.
  18. Serve with roti or rice accompanied by some other curries like a butter bean or white bean curry and condiments like our tamarind chutney and assorted pickles.

stewed taro leaves, brede songe touffé

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