Photo credit: Ben Ebbrell
Plantains are a fruit that bares a striking resemblance to the banana, except it is larger and green. Plantains cannot be eaten raw due to their high content of starch, and are sometimes even used as a thickener is stews and soups. The plantain is extremely versatile depending on the time of consumption, as it can lead to a starchy end product, or a sweet snack when ripe.
Imagine potato chips made using plantains and you get Mariquitas. The plantains are sliced paper thin long wise using a mandolin slicer and are deep fried until ready. A light sprinkling of salt is used to finish off this appetizer, which is usually served with a garlic dipping sauce called mojo.
Where to try them in Miami: Cuban Guys. 10801 Sunset Dr Miami, FL 33173. (786) 464-0744
Tostone/Patacon is a side dish made from using green plantains that are smashed and twice fried to result in a crisp and hearty accompaniment. The first fry is used to soften the fruit, which is then smashed, and flash fried again to make for the much sought-after crispiness. Some restaurants offer stuffed tostones as an appetizer, in which the tostones are shaped into bowl-like vessels and filled with variations of seafood, pork, cheese, etc.
Where to try them in Miami: Don Toston Restaurant. 2234 NW 17 Ave Miami, FL 33142. (305) 633-1919
Maduros are the result of frying slices of extremely ripe plantains. People who are not used to ripe plantains may baulk at the sight that Latinos prefer, since they have the appearance of being rotten. On the contrary, the black peel means that the maduros will be sweet as candy and a perfect side dish to compliment the savory aspects of the meal.
Where to try them in Miami: El Exquisito Restaurant. 1510 SW 8th St Miami, FL 33135. (305) 643-0227
Fufu is a traditional Cuban dish boiling plantain, smashing it with a fork, and mixing it with stock, seasonings, lard, and tomato paste, and other vegetables to provide a flavorful and hearty meal. The texture of fufu is similar to that of mofongo, except that mofongo is shaped into a ball.
Where to try them in Miami: Islas Canarias Café. 3804 SW 137 Ave Miami, FL 33175. (305) 559-0111
Just like Cubans have Fufu, Puerto Ricans have Mofongo. Smashing fried pieces of plantain with fried pork skin and other seasonings using a mortar and pestel makes this dish, which is sometimes considered Puerto Rico’s finest addition to the culinary world. Mofongo is usually served alongside the broth that was used to help shape it, making it easier for the diner to consume without it being too starchy.
Where to try them in Miami: Jimmy’z Kitchen Wynwood. 2700 N Miami Ave Miami, FL 33137. (305) 573-1505