Sometimes, as the second generation of Puerto Ricans in my family to grow up in the United State, I feel like there is so much of my culture I don’t know about. To me, being Puerto Rican means having tons of uncles (who are all actually great-uncles, but we don’t make that distinction), and getting together with my family (which means aunts, uncles, and cousins) of 25 at LEAST once a month. To me, being Puerto Rican is synonymous with family. My mom never cooked Puerto Rican food, my grandmother did. This may be why I personally can take Puerto Rican food or leave it, depending on my mood.
Today I learned about a new dish that can be classified as Puerto Rican – mofongo. Many Dominicans claim mofongo as a dish that has a special place in their hearts, but mofongo originates in my native Puerto Rico. Apparently the 380 or so miles between the two islands is not enough to differentiate between the two people’s stomachs. If you want to get scholarly about the dish, it’s roots can be traced back to an African dish called fufu and was brought to the Caribbean islands by Africans in the Spanish New World colonies.
Mofongo can be boiled down to being described as garlic-flavored mashed plantains. The plantains are fried and then mixed with garlic and shaped into a ball. Traditionally the dish is made with chicharron, which is fried pork rind. There are also less favored chicken and prawn versions. Broth is added to the mixture, giving it a solid soupy look. Mofongo can be eaten as a side dish or the main entrée, usually paired with rice and beans.
When ordering mofongo, please be careful NOT to order mondongo. This simple little slip can end up in a plate of innards being place in front of you instead of the plantain mash.
Puerto Rican version of Mofongo
3 green plantains
1 tsp salt
½ crispy, fried pork rinds (fresh is best)
4 cups water
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
Optional: Fried bacon or lard or vegetable oil
1. Peel plantains. Cut them into one inch slices and soak for about 15 minutes in salt water. Drain the plantains well.
2. Heat the fat or oil at 350 degrees if you choose to use a deepfryer. Add the plantain slices and fry for about 15 minutes, but do not let them brown. Place on a paper towel to soak the oil.
3. In a mortar, crush the garlic cloves and sprinkle with salt. Add the olive oil to the mix and continue pounding.
4. Crush part of the fried plantain slices and the pork. Add some garlic and olive mixture and continue pounding.
5. Mold the mixture into two inch balls.
6. Keep the balls warm until served.