Plantains are grown in tropical regions around the world and found in a variety of cuisines. They’re a type of banana with a very different flavor profile and culinary application than the sweet, yellow banana with which most people are familiar. Like bananas, plantains are originally from Southeast Asia. However, they are now grown all over the world, including in India, Egypt, Indonesia and tropical regions of the Americas, especially the Caribbean.
Plantains are usually larger and tougher than bananas, with much thicker skin. They may be green, yellow or very dark brown. Plantains are starchy, tough, not very sweet, and require cooking. Green and yellow plantains are often sliced, fried, and eaten as a fritter called tostones, a popular dish all over the Caribbean. Sliced very thin and pressed into flat disks before frying, tostones are often eaten as chips. Another common dish from the Caribbean is known as maduros. Maduros are a sweeter take on plantains in which very ripe, dark plantains are fried or baked in oil until the outside caramelizes.
Even though arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) is considered Puerto Rico’s national dish, it is Mofongo that is arguably its most important dish. This dish of green plantains fried and mashed together with oil, garlic, salt, and sometimes bacon or chicharron (fried pork skin), exemplifies the heart and soul of the island- different backgrounds coming together over time to create something enchanting.
Mofongo- Puerto Rican Mashed Plantains
- Large bowl
- Large skillet
- Potato masher.
- 3 large Green plantains
- 5 cloves Garlic, minced
- 1 medium Red bell pepper
- 1/2 Yellow onion
- 5 strips Bacon, sliced into ½ inch pieces (omit for vegetarian or vegan versions. Replace with 3 tbsp olive oil)
- 3 tbsp Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Prepare Plantains – Cut end off of plantains and then cut 3 deep vertical slits. Peel skins from plantains by working down the vertical slits. Cut crossways into 1-inch slices. Soak in salted water for 15 minutes. Drain and dry well. Heat oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Place plantains into oil, cut-side down, and cook 3-4 minute on each side. The disks should be a golden brown color. Careful not to let them turn dark brown and add more oil if necessary. Remove to paper towels to drain.
- Cook Vegetables – Add bacon to same skillet and cook 5 minutes. Then add onion and red pepper and continue cooking until bacon is crisp and onions are soft and caramelized, about 10 minutes.
- Complete Mofongo – Place cooked plantains in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher. Mash-in garlic, spices, and cilantro. Scrape pan with the cooked onions, bacon, and red pepper into bowl and knead everything with your hands until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.Shape into large balls of mofongo with your hands and then flatten slightly on serving plates. Serve as a side like mashed potatoes or surround with a heavily sauced disk like Shrimp in Garlic Sauce.
- For vegetarian or vegan version, replace bacon with 2-3 tbsp oil if not using.
- Don’t overcook the plantains or they might be too dry. If they seem dry when mashing, add a little oil. Too dry and they will be crumbly when shaping into balls.
- For a prettier presentation, lightly oil a small bowl, press a quarter of the mofongo into the bowl. Lightly place bowl upside-down over a serving dish and remove bowl.