Better known as “Cocina Criolla”, puerto rican cuisine has a a lot of influence from Spain and other Latin American cuisines. The flavour profile consists of spices such as sofrito, adobo , cilantro, bay leaf, “culantro” (10 times the flavour of cilantro), oregano, garlic, achiote ( annatto), pique, among many others. Pork, plantains, rice & beans are the typical ingredients used in everyday cooking. Being a US territory since the Treaty of Paris in 1916, the mainland has influenced Puerto Rico in many ways, including in the food. As of 2012 it is believed that more than 5 million Puerto Ricans live in the US vs. 4 million living in Puerto Rico. Every year more people are leaving the Island in search of a better economic life in the United States. A huge way the US has influenced the cuisine in Puerto Rico has to do with the way puerto rican fry their food. Originally, olive oil was used for frying and cooking, but after the treaty it became very expensive to import the olive oil from Spain. That is when they were introduced to lard that could be produced locally. Shortly after that, corn oil produced in the US took the place of the lard. Oil is used constantly, specially in street food, such as “alcapurria” (fritter made out of a plantain batter stuffed with meat) and “bacalaitos” (cod fish fritters). Other ingredients from the US quickly made their way to puerto rican cuisines, such as: bacon turkey, and soda crackers.
Growing up in Puerto Rico, food has always been a huge part of my life. Cooking and food is taken very serious in the small Island. So many spices are used in the cooking process that it is hard to find any other cuisine in comparison. The way that the food in Puerto Rico differs from other latin american cuisines such as, cuban and dominican, is in the flavour. We use a lot more spices and many dishes are cook with a “sofrito” base. “Sofrito” is a blend typically made with different types of peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro, adobo, oregano, and achiote. A pot of beans is going to have a lot more flavour when cooked in a puerto rican home, because the “sofrito” will be used as a base.
At home my mom cooks every day, usually typical puerto rican dishes. We eat rice & beans at least twice a week, usually with “bistec encebollado” (beef steak that has been pounded until very thin, seasoned with adobo and cooked in oil with onions) and “tostones” (green plantain smashed and fried twice). My mother is a really good cook, but one of my favorite dishes that she makes is “arroz con salchicas”. This dish consists of rice mixed and can vienna sausage that it all has been cooked together with broth, sofrito and other spices.
After I moved to the United States about 5 years ago, it has been really hard to find food that compares to the food from back home. So, I am always looking forward to Christmas season when I get the chance to visit the Puerto Rico, eat, and celebrate the season. One of the best parts about visiting the Island during the Christmas season is the food. People eat and drink like there is no tomorrow, everyday! From “lechon” (pork), “arroz con gandules” (rice with pigeon peas), “pasteles” (masa made typically from plantains and it is stuffed with stewed meat), among many other things. During the vacation time families and friends host gatherings at their homes that mainly consist of really good food and local rum. My mom has been hosting Christmas Eve at our house for more than 23 years, and it is my favorite day of the year. I get to spend time with my family and our closests friends. But I also get to eat the most typical puerto rican food.
There are many things that make puerto rican cuisine unique, from many different ingredients, spices, and dishes. It is really hard to say what is my favorite thing to eat as a puerto rican. But, I have to say that my ultimate dish is the “Mofongo”, I constantly crave it and one bite takes me all the way back home with my family. “Mofongo” is an authentic puerto rican dish made from green plantains, sometimes it is made out of yuca or ripe plantain. In Puerto Rico you can also find a “trifongo” which is made from green and ripe plantains, and yuca combined. The classic “mofongo” is made frying the green plantain then smashing it in a “pilon’ (a wooden bowl), with oil, garlic and “chicharron” (pork skin). The consistency of the “mofongo” is crispy in the outside and dense in the inside. It goes great with steak, chicken, shrimp, basically any protein. My favorite way to eat it is with “chicharrones de pollo” (fried chicken chunks). Everytime I go back home, this dish is the first thing I eat. I sometimes make it at my house, but nothing tastes as good as my mother food!