Jamaican Bammy is a steamed flatbread made from Cassava/Yucca root. Cassava was an important staple in the diet of the indegenious Arawak Indians of Jamaica. Some version of bammy may have originated from the natives and carried on through the African slave generations who came later. The bread is easy to make and needs only two ingredients. In Jamaica it is eaten in a variety of ways and is a delightful low fat, gluten free treat. Here are a few things to know before making bammies.
Cassava is one of the easiest tubers you will ever peel. The skin looks intimidating but you basically lift it from the flesh instead of peeling like other roots. Once the cassava is cut in sections, it will reveal the layers in the skin. There is a thick white layer covered in a purplish thinner layer right under the skin. You will need to make a vertical incision through that white layer first. Gently place the blade of your knife under the incision and lift+pull that layer away from the flesh. Unlike other tubers where the skin needs peeling or slicing it away from the flesh, bammy does not need that. It may actually surprise you how easy it is to peel.
As you peel the tubers, soak them in a large bowl of cold water and discard the water once all of them are grated.
The flesh of the cassava is quite soft because of the amount of liquid in it. Unlike coconuts or even sweet potatoes that have a harder interior, cassava is actually a quick root to process. You may also cut the cassava pieces small enough and to fit your food processor, and grate the flesh easily that way.
Cassava bran or pulp is wet to the touch. You will need to squeeze all of the liquid out of the pulp before forming the bammy. Use a cheesecloth or a thin piece of fabric to help with this process. When you think you have squeezed enough, squeeze some more and remember to save the liquid. You will need to break the pulp apart with your fingers and place it on a large sheet pan. Allow it to air dry even more for about 30 minutes.
Using the starch:
Cassava starch can be used in a variety of ways. The liquid should sit until the starch settles at the bottom. Pour off the water and leave the remaining starch uncovered overnight. Transfer it to a plate, cover with a breathable cover and sit it outside. The starch will completely dry out and leave a powdery substance, much like corn starch. It can be used in the same ways as corn starch as a thickener, extender or stabilizer. My mother explained that her grandmother used to use the starch as a seamstress, to get fabric to be perfectly smooth when ironed.
Forming and steaming the bammy:
Forming the bammy is easy as it will take the shape of whatever you put it in. I used my largest cookie cutter and added 1 cup of mixture for each of my bammies. They should be made in a heavy pan that is slightly greased along with the ring mold, before the pulp is added. The bammy will need to be steamed on low heat for about 8-10 minutes on each side to fully cook through. It is SUPER important that bammy us cooked all the way through. Do NOT rush the steaming process.
Bammy can be prepared in numerous ways. It can be eaten steamed straight from the pot like bread, but it can also be fried or further cooked in the sauce of another dish. It’s normally served fried with escovitch fish but it can also be cooked in steamed or brown stew fish dishes if one prefers it not fried.
Bammies can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 14 days and frozen for longer. Place the cooled bammies in a freezer bag, store and warm before eating. Bammies can be warmed after being thawed if wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in the microwave for 30-45 seconds.
- 4lbs cassava root
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- Cooking spray
- Cut the tops and bottoms of the cassava root and discard. Cut cassava into 3 or 4 large pieces depending on the length of the root. Make a vertical incision with a sharp knife that pierces through the skin and inner white layer of the root. Gently place the blade of the knife under the white rimmed layer. Use the knife to lift and pull the layer and skin from each section. Place the peeled bammy in a large bowl with cold water.
- Grate or process the bammy into a pulp.
- Use a cheesecloth to hold the pulp as you squeeze the liquid from the pulp. Do this in batches. The pulp should be as dry as you can get it. Place the dried pulp on a sheet pan and allow it to air out for about 30 minutes.
- Lightly using cooking spray to grease a cast iron pan or heavy skillet as well as the ring mold you will use to shape the bammy. I used a 6-inch mold. Place the ring mold in the center of the pan over low heat. Place 1 cup of cassava pulp into the ring mold. Use the bottom of the measuring cup or a similar implement to press down the pulp until it feels solid/hard. Be sure to press the edges of the bammy so it is even all the way around.
- Steam the bammy for about 8-10 minutes before flipping and steaming the other side for the same amount of time. Do not rush the steaming process as it is super important that the cassava cooks all the way through.
- Repeat steps 4-5 until you get a yield of 8 bammies.
- Remove from the heat and wrap in a tea cloth so it stays warm.