It really needs no cooking to be eaten, as it’s cooked as part of the process of preparing it; it just needs moistening. It has a slightly fermented, sour taste.
It is used to make a gruel called “fufu” in Nigeria. You can also use it for a starch side dish as you would rice, or couscous.
It can be mixed with cold water for a snack; sugar or salt may be added, and sometimes some evaporated milk.
Gari was traditionally made at home, but is now being made commercially.
To make Gari, the cassava roots are cleaned, grated, and let ferment 3 to 7 days in jute bags. The fermentation process is vital, as it destroys the prussic acid toxins are that naturally present in the root.
The jute bags are then pressed to get remaining water out of the roots inside. The pressed-out water can be collected and let settle; the sediment that forms is a pure starch that can be used for other cooking purposes.
The gari is then sieved, then fried up in a dry pot, being stirred continuously until it becomes crisp. This pan-roasting drives off any remaining cyanide as gas, and kills enzymes and microorganisms to extend storage life.
Finally, it is ground, anywhere from fine to coarsely. In Nigeria, commercial grades come in extra fine, fine, coarse and extra coarse.
There are a few different variations of gari:
- Red gari (aka “bendel gari”): red palm oil is added after the cassava is grated. Fermented 2 to 3 days;
- White gari: fermented 2 to 3 days;
- Ijebu Gari: fermented 7 days. Sharper taste, less starchy;
- Ghana gari: peeled cassava is soaked in water first before grating, then sun dried, then fried. Starchy, thus crisper.
Eba is gari sprinkled into a pot of boiling water, and stirred until a dough is formed. This is served in balls in soups or, with other dishes, as you would mashed potato.
Yoo ke garri is gari with beans. Gari foto is a thick, spoonable gari gruel with vegetables in it, often served with red beans in a tomato sauce.
Gari can be stored for up to 6 months or more in airtight containers.