Caribbean cuisine to spice up your life


If you’ve been to Puerto Rico, you might have tasted delicious marinated pork, fried snacks at a beachside restaurant, or a perfect combination of beans and rice.

The dynamism of the country’s capital really comes to life in its traditional flavors and local dishes.

Here’s a taste of Puerto Rican cuisine as World Food Day approaches on October 16.

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Mofongo

A staple that pairs well with anything, mofongo is Puerto Rican comfort food at its best.

Made from pieces of fried green plantain mashed with garlic and salted pork, pork crackers, butter or oil, the flavors are a heavenly combination. Some recipes use a salted broth to soften the plantains while mashing.

Mofongo can be served as a side dish or stuffed with any meat, like cooked chicken, crab, octopus, skirt steak, fried pork, or cooked vegetables.

There are two traditional ways to prepare plantains: “Tostones” are made with tasty green plantains, fried in oil to soften them, mashed and fried again until crispy. “Amarillos” are ripe plantains cut and fried until the outside is almost blackened and the inside is soft and sweet.

Lechon asado

This delicacy is prepared by marinating a whole pig (lechón) in adobo (a mixture of garlic, oregano, black pepper, vinegar and water) then slowly roasted over coals for several hours until ” that the meat is juicy and the skin crispy.

For a taste of Puerto Rico’s best lechón, plan a trip to Guavaté, where the road up the Cayey Mountains is lined with lechoneras (pork restaurants).

Frituras

No Puerto Rican meal is complete without frituas. These fried snacks are usually found at outdoor restaurants by the beach.

A variety of different frituras include ‘alcapurrias’, torpedo-shaped donuts made from grated root vegetables stuffed with a choice of meats such as ground beef, crab meat, chicken, fish, octopus. , conch or other types of seafood.

Alternatively, the “Empanadillas” are a larger version of the pastelillos, also stuffed with a choice of meat and chips.

The inhabitants often eat “arepas” as an aperitif; made from flour, they are sometimes made with coconut for a slightly sweet flavor, fried and then stuffed, usually with seafood.

A fourth version of frituras is “bacalaítos,” a flour and water dough with pieces of salt cod and parsley, fried to resemble giant cornflakes.

Arroz y habichuelas

An unrivaled version of rice and beans, this is Puerto Rico’s quintessential side dish. Pink beans are simmered with onions, peppers, garlic, ham knuckle, calabaza squash, and sofrito – a cooking base made by mixing onion, garlic, peppers, culantro, coriander and oregano (as well as other herbs, spices and aromatics according to the family recipe).

Coquito

Puerto Rican eggnog, Coquito (which means “little coconut” in Spanish) is made with evaporated milk, condensed milk, coconut milk, white rum and a choice of spices, usually cinnamon and nutmeg.


Michael M. Tomlin

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