More Fun with Mofongo

More Fun with Mofongo

Take your taste buds on a real ride with one of the world’s original fusion dishes.


I want you to imagine taking a bite of the most mouthwatering, most spine-tingling, most transcendent thing you’ve ever tasted. You know – that one, special dish that tastes like heaven wrapped in a hug.

Now, I want you to imagine taking a bite of something even better. A dish that combines the most intense, wonderful flavors with the most intriguing, satisfying textures. A dish reminiscent of joy, of culture, of comfort. A dish called mofongo.

Or, as I like to call it, mmmofongo.

For the uninitiated, mofongo sounds like run-of-the-mill Latin fare: fried green plantains, lots of garlic, pork fat, and a bit of sauce. Sounds delicioso, sure, but it doesn’t have sufficient flash and pomp to make you immediately think, I MUST HAVE IT!

But the thing is, you really must have it. I’m going to put it all out there and say, you haven’t fully lived until your taste buds have sampled mofongo.

A Brief History
Like much of Latin cuisine, mofongo is one of the world’s original fusion dishes. Before it was hip to be fused, this Puerto Rican delight blended African culinary traditions with Caribbean ingredients and Spanish flavors.

But let’s start at the beginning – before the conquistadors, before slavery, before Puerto Rico was even Puerto Rico. Before slavery brought African influence to Caribbean waters, Western and Central Africans were incorporating starchy veggies – yucca, yams and plantains, primarily – into a thick, porridge-like base for other dishes.

When these same Western and Central Africans were forcefully displaced to the New World as slaves, their cultural and culinary traditions came, too. Today, mofongo – similar to Cuban fufu de platano and Dominican mangú – remains deeply rooted to Africa via a bloodline of green plantains. Once boiled and mashed, just like it was centuries ago and a continent away, this plantain mixture is added to a Caribbean sofrito and Spanish-style garlic and olive oil. In other words, it’s criollo Puerto Rico in a dish.

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More Than the Sum of its Parts
As rich and important its heritage, and as delicious and comforting its ingredients, mofongo is somehow more than just a tasty dish. Something magical happens during its preparation – we’re willing to bet the magic has a little something to do with fresh chicharrones (pork cracklings) – that converts plantains, pork and garlic into the intense, wildly flavorful, and invigorating feast we call mofongo.

And what a feast it is. For Puerto Ricans, no celebration or festivity is complete without mofongo. Bathed in savory sauce, this dish can be eaten alone or topped with shrimp, beef, or really any yumminess of your choosing. Just trust us on this – mofongo is one Latin delicacy you simply must try for yourself.

My motto: Open mouth, insert mofongo. Enjoy ensuing bliss.

Mofongo
Serves 2-4

Ingredients:
4 green plantains
½-1 lb. raw chicharrón (pork belly)
8-12 cloves of garlic, mashed
4 teaspoons of olive oil
2 cups oil, for frying

Instructions:

  1. In a deep saucepan, begin heating vegetable oil. It’s ready when small bubbles begin to rise.
  2. Remove skin from plantains and slice into 1-inch chunks. Slowly place chunks into the oil and cook to a golden brown. Remove and place on paper towels to remove excess oil. Allow to cool.
  3. Move on to the pork belly. Bring water to a boil, and throw in a few good glugs of white vinegar (this will help get your chicharrones extra crispy). On the fat-lined side of your raw meat, score a crosshatch pattern. Then, simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  4. After 20 minutes, remove and drain. Pat dry. Then, slice chicharrones into 1-inch strips. With the fat side-down, cut deep slices without cutting through all the fat. The result should be 1-inch strips that are scored into cubes.
  5. Deep fry these strips approximately 4 minutes, until very crispy. Drain on a cooling rack or paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt, then put in a warm oven (about 200°F/100°C) for 20 minutes, to keep them crispy while you proceed with the recipe.
  6. In a fresh sauté pan, warm olive oil. Mince garlic, then add to warm olive oil. Do not fry the garlic or allow to turn golden. (The idea is just to lightly cook the garlic, allowing it to flavor the olive oil.) Salt lightly. Use a wooden spoon to mash the garlic into the olive oil, releasing the flavors. Remove from heat.
  7. Remove chicharrones from the oven, and chop finely.
  8. With a mortar and pestle, lightly mash the now-cool fried plantains. They should stick together without being completely mashed. Then, mix in the chicharrones and some of the garlic-olive oil sauce. When the mixture forms a ball, turn it out onto a plate. Sauce it up! (Or top with whatever you’d like.)

What favorite dish best celebrates your rich history? Share in the comments below.


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