Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Colcasia,Taro, قلقاس Ulass

I was in the Shopping Centre today with the boys and as we were making our way from one random location to another we passed a yoghurt stand which caught my attention.  I read a sign which read Taro and I really thought that was an unusual yoghurt flavour.  I naturally had to try it, and it was REALLY very nice.  Sweet popcorn like flavour.  It took me back to eating Taro at home.  Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass, is a brown root that exudes a sticky sap when cut. However, when cooked right, it is a deliciously unique vegetable.
Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass
Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass

In Egypt, taro is known as kolkas قلقاس and is larger than what would be found in North American or Australian supermarkets.  My mother would cook Ulass by peeling the taro completely and cutting it into small cubes.  It was then cooked in a broth, with fresh coriander and Silverbeet (Swiss chard).  My dad grew up having it differently.  He said it was cut into slices and cooked with minced meat and tomato sauce.  I don’t have any memory of my mother making it this way but in the broth it is lovely.

I recall mum buying already peeled, cubed and frozen Colcasia but having no idea where I could find it locally and wanting very much to make this from scratch I set out on a mission to find the tubers fresh.
I had rung a local grocer to find out if they stocked Taro and they said yes so I bundled the kids in the car and headed to the grocer.  I love fresh fruit and vegetables and seeing what is in season so I spent a little time looking around at all the wonderful vegetables before asking after Taro.  The man with the clipboard seemed like the right person to ask.  So, I did, although truth be told I was a little confused about the difference between Taro and Yam.  I thought they were different names for the same thing and since I only knew this dish by the Egyptian name I mistakenly asked him “Do you have any Yam?”.
“No we don’t stock it”.
“Well, I rang about it and was told you do”
“I am the produce manager and I know that we don’t stock it.”

Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass
Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass
After a bit more to-ing and fro-ing I left, quite disappointed.  We then head to another market and we head in that direction, cutting it fine since it was close to lunch and nap time for the boys.  We find parking and as we do I notice an Asian greengrocer.  I decide to try in there too.  It was a wonderful store.  Full of beans, pastas, bottled goods, fruit and veg of a wonderful array – including globe artichokes!!!  (If you already read the artichoke saga you will understand my amazement at this).  Anyway I saw so many different vegies (not surprising in an Asian grocer) but there I found the yams I was after. 
Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass
Silverbeet, Swiss Chard

At $10 a kilo I thought the price was alright, but then I noticed that they were growing mould on them.  I found a lad and asked if he was going to get more in and when.  Eventually he said wait and disappeared.  On his return he was carrying a box with more of the same but …not mouldy.  I carefully chose 5 of them and moved on to the okra (also requiring a hunt for fresher product from out the back) and a few more items. 

When I get home I pull up the recipe that I have for Ulass and have a read.  For some reason, I feel the need to do a Google search on Yams and I can’t find a picture of the yams I bought.  I try Colcasia and Taro and get all confused.  In the end I get my husband to assist me in determining if what I have bought is a yam and if a yam is the same as Taro and /or Colcasia.  Turns out that Taro is the English name for Ulass and Colcasia.  I was hunting down Yams and I bought yams (so I thought) but what I actually bought was Taro and amazingly, Taro is what I needed, so… naturally relieved I start making Ulass, the way my mum made it.

Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass
Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass

 I start peeling the Taro after my youngest is back in bed for his morning nap and his older brother is out working on his garden.  I decide to video as well and will see how it looks, hopefully it is good enough to upload to “Dynas Egyptian Cooking” Channel on YouTube but I needed to get a very dirty boy (having finished his gardening and come in) clean first.  He decided to help.  And helpful he was.  Peeling, washing, chopping and preparing the Taro, Silverbeet and the Chicken stock.  I just had to get a photo.

Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass
Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass
Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass
Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass

I put things on hold to make lunch and to get the boys to have a nap.  I took photos of the boiled chicken and cleaned up and then I took the boys to the park for a couple of hours before the mad dash to get dinner on the table.  My youngest is crawling all over me for food and resorts to a raw onion he finds and starts to eat it.  I have to hold him, feed him, cook rice, boil the stock, sauté the silverbeet and then blend it, fry the garlic and get the whole thing videoed at the same time.  Not too bad until the camera dies and I have to use a replacement – which has a flat battery and even the backup battery is flat!  I am clearly frazzled when my husband walks in home from work.  He finds a power cord and extension for the camera while I feed my youngest some rice and chicken.  My eldest starts eating rice and chicken too and within 5 minutes I have completed my task. Dinner finally ready !! But the photo first.  Then I finally got to eat and write up the blog, edit, upload and so…I left the clean up!

1 kg Colcasia/Taro
4 cups homemade chicken stock or broth (see page ?)
40 ml or ½ a lemon juiced.
½ bunch silverbeet/swiss chard greens/ kale, stems removed and roughly chopped.
½ bunch fresh coriander /cilantro leaves.
2 tablespoons Ghee or butter
3 teaspoons or 7 cloves crushed garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper

Serves 6
Peel and cut colcasia into cubes.
Heat broth in a deep pan and add colcasia and lemon juice then leave to boil about 25 minutes or until tender.
In a large fry pan add ½ cup water and the chopped silverbeet and coriander along with the salt and pepper.  Stir over high heat until the silverbeet has wilted.  Transfer to a blender and blend to a puree.
 Melt ghee or butter in a frying pan or skillet, add garlic and fry until beginning to brown.  Add the pureed greens and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Add the silverbeet mixture to the colcasia and bring to the boil.

Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass
Colcasia, also known as Taro, قلقاس Ulass

Serve hot along with rice and boiled chicken.


  1. How much do people care about your story about grocery shopping? Get to the point.

    1. I found her story very interesting because it points out the culture difficulty of finding fruits and vegetables that might be enjoyed in very, very different food cultures, by different names. Yam, sweet potato, taro: that's one example. Or the Mexican vine gourd known as chayote, which is also known as Mirlton in New Orleans.

      And besides, that wasn't a very nice comment, Omar.

    2. On the contrary, I enjoyed her writing that shows her talent as a writer with an eye for detail, and reminded me of what people go through when they move to a different country and start looking for the familiar things they miss from their original country. And actually, people do not care about a mean comment, Omar.
      Thank you Dyna for all this infomation. I love kolkas, but I did not know the English translation of Kolkas, Salk, etc. I looked them up and knew it was Taro for kolkas, but searched everywhere for the green leafy vegetable you fry and add in the end in vain. so, I really appreciate all the information and the pretty professional photos you posted. I used to just buy the small bags of frozen cubed taro with the meager vegetable addition at the Arabic stores, but of course they cannot be compared to the fresh kolkas I used to make in Egypt. Thanks.

    3. Omar How much do people care about your comment? A bit rude don't you think?
      She's a blogger and that's THE POINT she shares her experience with people who like to read. If you just wanted a recipe. Google Egyptian Taro recipe.

    4. I'm glad that I know the Chard can be used instead of Molokhyia! I have a freind very skilled with Molokhyia and Taro soup, but mine always comes out too slippery, and other Americans are not used to the Molokhia texture. Healthy, nevertheless.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Omg i found this super helpful thank u so so much

  3. Yaay! Thanks Dyna, this is my first time cooking Taro with greens and it turned out perfect, once again "Thank you so much!".😍

  4. I've made this recipe a few times and my family and I LOVE it! My father is Egyptian and I feel like I'm in the kitchen with my grandmother when I make this. It's so good. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much for letting me know. Im so glad that you have fond memories when you make it.

  5. Omar.. your comment was a bit rude.

    Learn patience!

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