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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On the Road: Puerto Rican Flavors

Whenever I travel some place, I like to sample the local cuisine. I devoured local dishes in Costa Rica and Chile (and really really wish a restaurant with these traditional dishes would open in the Bay Area). Surprisingly I try to go to a place without any preconceptions; I went to Puerto Rico without researching the typical cuisine.

According to Scott Rosenbaum, Executive Chef at Wilde Roast Café in Minneapolis,
"Puerto Rican food ... [is] equate[d] .. with Mexican cuisine. Although some of the ingredients are the same, the flavors could not be more different. The deeply flavored cuisine is a result of a hodgepodge of cultural influences on the island. Roots like yams, yuca and taro were cultivated by the Tainos, the native population of Amerindians. The Spanish arrived with coconuts, eggplant and seasonings like cilantro, onion and garlic. African slaves brought okra and plantains."
Based on my experiences in Costa Rica and Chile and at local Peruvian restaurants, I wasn't expecting Mexican food in Puerto Rico. When I stepped off the plane I was ready to get started sampling the food; rather than find what we were looking for, my husband, friends, and I entered The Twilight Zone (a story for another time). Our second night, we had our first taste of Puerto Rican cuisine.

Two typical dishes we tried in both Old San Juan and the Loquillo Kioskos were Mofongo and Tostones (both made with plantains).
Pollo Mofongo, El Balcon Del Moreno
Pollo (Chicken) Mofongo Relleno, El Balcon Del Moreno

Bacalao Mofongo, El Balcon Del Moreno
Bacalao (Codfish) Mofongo Relleno, El Balcon Del Moreno

Mofongo de Camarones, Ceviche Hut

Fried Plantain
Tostones aka Fried Plantain, Ceviche Hut
One thing that surprised me was the lightness of both the Mofongo and the Tostones; neither tasted like oil. I was so impressed that I've ordered two highly recommended Puerto Rican cookbooks. Luckily here in the Mission, we have lots of corner markets specializing in Latin American groceries, and they typically have lots of green plantains in stock so practicing shouldn't be a problem. (I also really hope I can find cassava (or yuca), but again that's a story for another post.)

Did you bring back any foods from your honeymoon?

Bon Apetit!
Credits: All images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for Recipes for the Good Life.

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