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IDIOT’S GUIDE: Mofongo

If there is one thing I will dearly miss from my recent trip to Puerto Rico aside from the sun and its accompanying warmth, it is mofongo. A quintessential food of San Juan, it is a signature Puerto Rican dish of garlic-flavored mashed plantains, traditionally served in a wooden mortar with side dishes of beans and rice. Filled with beef, crab, shrimp, chicken, or vegetables and drizzled with warm broth and chunks of your preferred protein, the dish is truly a must-try for foodie travelers, especially since the dish has become something of a national staple amidst the plethora of local food offerings.

Before I further dwell on mofongo, it might be useful to know some background about the island’s cooking. While Puerto Rican cuisine resembles Spanish, Cuban, and Mexican cuisines, it is actually a unique blend of European, African, American, South American, and Taino-Amerindian influences. It uses a lot of local ingredients and spices, such as cacao, coriander, and (lots and lots of) plantains. As a matter of fact, plantains are an important and highly demanded crop in many agricultural sectors of Puerto Rico, so much so that some varieties of plantains are imported.

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Anyway, my appreciation for mofongo is by no means accidental. My friends who traveled to San Juan last year have repeatedly told me about the Caribbean delicacies they enjoyed throughout their trip, which include, but are not limited to tostones (crispy fried plantains), tropical fruit-flavored sherbets, and mofongos, which according to them cannot be found anywhere in Boston.

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As a shameless follower of various food blogs and a devotee of Yelp and the likes, I had to find out about the various local restaurants that supposedly serve some of the most-loved versions of the dish prior to my flight from Boston… Only to be forced to pick several that is conveniently located to Old San Juan, as my friends as I spent most of our holiday there. Three of my favorite versions are from El Jibarito, Punto De Vista, and Barrachina. According to our tour guide, the former two are local favorites, while the latter is a mere “tourist trap” as it is the home of the Piña Colada. I cannot comment on that for I am no expert on Caribbean food, though I did think that the steak mofongo I had Barrachina was as delicious… Hashtag tourist problems.

Sadly, most, if not all, of my photos do not do the dish any justice. If you are planning to visit Puerto Rico or even New York some time soon, please do yourself a favor and try the goodness at its best mashed form. Otherwise, you can try to make a simple, vegetarian-friendly version on your own by following this recipe (adapted from the Travel and Living Channel): 

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Ingredients

  • 4 green plantains, peeled and sliced into one-inch rounds
  • 2 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons of crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Preparation

  • In a medium sized stockpot over high heat, add plantains and stock. Bring to a boil and let cook for 10 minutes or until the plantains are soft.
  • In a small sauté pan over low heat, add garlic and butter or oil and cook for 3 minutes, or until the garlic begins to soften. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Once the plantains are soft, remove from heat and mash. Add garlic oil and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Garnish with tofu, beef, chicken, or seafood and serve warm.

Buen provecho!

El Jibarito

Calle Sol 280
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

(787) 725-8375

http://www.eljibaritopr.com

Punto De Vista

1 Cll Juan Antonio Coretejas
Plaza Covadonga
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

(787) 725-4860

Barrachina

104 Fortaleza St
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

(787) 725-7912

http://www.barrachina.com

-Andari Gusman

Cover photo source.

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