The term "foo-foo" refers to any ground provision or a combination of ground provisions that has been boiled, pounded or mashed, then formed into balls. It's one of those foods that came to the Caribbean through the region's African descendants. It's also called foutou, fufu or foufou in parts of Africa. This hearty dish isn't made as often these days, but it's still very much a part of the Caribbean's cuisine and it's a staple of the African diet.
What's a Ground Provision?
"Ground provision" is a Caribbean term given to tubular root vegetables that grow in the ground. Think beets, turnips, and yams in American cooking. Ground provisions include cassava (yucca), eddoes, sweet potatoes, yams and tania (malanga) in the Caribbean. Although plantains aren't grown in the ground, they're considered to be a ground provision in the islands because they're often combined with tubular root vegetables in native dishes.
How to Make Foo-Foo
Different types of foo-foo are based on the main ingredient being used. Whatever the root vegetable, foo-foo is traditionally made using a large mortar and pestle typically made of wood or granite — the kind you have to stand up and put your full body strength into. Making foo-foo with one of these mortars and pestles is said to be something of an art form. The technique is as unique as the food itself.
If you don't happen to own a mortar and pestle, a regular potato masher might be used, but a mortar and pestle is the ideal tool — even a small one that doesn't require that you be in great physical shape before you use it.
Ground provisions are a lot sturdier than potatoes, so the added force and stability that a mortar and pestle provides can be helpful.
The root vegetable is typically boiled first to soften it. Some — like cassava roots — are so tough in their natural state that they must be soaked for a period of time even before boiling to absorb water and loosen them up a bit.
After boiling, they're cooled under cold running water and drained. They're peeled if necessary, then mashed, often with a little butter. The mash is then formed into balls and served. More dry ingredients can be added if the foo-foo is too thin to hold its shape, but foo-foo more often tends to be too thick. This problem can be remedied by vigorous stirring.
Foo-foo isn't a meal by itself. It can be put into soups in the final stages of the cooking process, but it's often served in Africa and in the Caribbean as a side dish, accompanied by a meat or vegetable stew. Foo-foo usually accompanies a dish that has a lot of sauce. It's meant to be eaten with the fingers, but a spoon, knife, and fork will work, too.
Break off a piece of foo-foo and dip it into the sauce served with it, or press it against a piece of the stew meat to absorb the juice before eating it. A word of warning for the squeamish: Foo-foo is typically and traditionally served in one large bowl, providing enough dough for the whole table. Everyone dips their fingers into the same bowl to pluck out the piece they want.