Caribbean cuisine to spice up your life
If you have visited Puerto Rico you may have sampled delicious marinated pork, deep-fried snacks at a beachside restaurant or a perfect combination of beans and rice.
The vibrancy of the country’s capital really comes alive in its traditional flavours and local dishes.
Here is a taste of Puerto Rican cuisine in the run-up to World Food Day on October 16.
A staple dish that pairs well with everything, mofongo is Puerto Rican comfort food at its finest.
Made from deep-fried green plantain pieces mashed with garlic and either salt-cured pork, pork crackling, butter, or oil the flavours are a heavenly combination. Some recipes use a salty broth to soften the plantains while mashing.
Mofongo can be served as a side dish or stuffed with any meat, such as stewed chicken, crab, octopus, skirt steak, fried pork or stewed vegetables.
There are two traditional ways to prepare plantains – “Tostones” are made from savoury green plantain, deep-fried in oil to soften, smashed, and deep-fried again until crispy. “Amarillos” are ripe plantains cut up and fried until the outside is almost blackened, and the inside is soft and sweet.
This delicacy is prepared by marinating a whole pig (lechón) in adobo (a mix of garlic, oregano, black pepper, vinegar, and water) and then slowly roasted over coals for several hours until the meat is juicy and the skin crispy.
To sample some of the best lechón in Puerto Rico, plan a trip to Guavate, where the road which heads up the mountains of Cayey is lined with lechoneras (pork restaurants).
No Puerto Rican meal is complete without frituas. These deep-fried snacks are usually found in open-air, beachside restaurants.
A variety of different frituras include “alcapurrias”, torpedo-shaped fritters made from shredded root vegetables stuffed with a choice of meat such as ground beef, crab meat, chicken, fish, octopus, conch, or other types of seafood.
Alternatively, “Empanadillas” are a larger version of pastelillos, also stuffed with a choice of meat and fried.
Locals often eat “arepas” as appetisers; flour-based, these are sometimes made with coconut for a slightly sweet flavour, fried and then stuffed, usually with seafood.
A fourth frituras version is “bacalaítos”, a batter of flour and water with chunks of salted cod and parsley, deep-fried to look like giant cornflakes.
Arroz y habichuelas
An incomparable version of rice and beans, this is the quintessential Puerto Rican side dish. Pink beans are stewed with onions, peppers, garlic, ham hock, calabaza squash, and sofrito — a cooking base made by blending onion, garlic, peppers, culantro, cilantro, and oregano (as well as other herbs, spices, and aromatics depending on the family recipe).
Puerto Rico’s take on eggnog, Coquito (meaning “small coconut” in Spanish) is made with evaporated milk, condensed milk, coconut milk, white rum and a choice of spices, usually involving cinnamon and nutmeg.
For more information on the delights Puerto Rico has to offer, go to discoverpuertorico.com