Let’s call this a public service announcement or an educational post. Having tried all three plantain dishes in Puerto Rico, not saying that these are the only ways to eat plantains, I figured I will talk about them together.
A major part of Puerto Rican food is starch, especially plantains. I have seen potatoes and fries on menus in restaurants in Puerto Rico, but plantains are so. much. better!
Plantains are larger than the regular bananas we often see in grocery stores. They are a great source of carbohydrates and in Puerto Rican cuisine, they are either cooked raw or ripe.
Green or raw plantains are often made into “tostones” or “mofongo.” Tostones are like potato fries, but much tastier and meatier. The plantain’s are either fried or bake whole first, before they are sliced up, flattened then fried again. It does not sound particularly healthy, but dear lord, they are delicious and I would probably eat them all the time if I didn’t have to make them myself.
This is what green plantains fried as tostones will typically look like. Almost all the Puerto Rican restaurants I visited offered these as part of the meal or as a side dish. They can be eaten with ketchup, salt and pepper or with whatever dish you ordered.
Picnic on the beach!! With mixed seafood ceviche and tostones! Now, this is an exception. Apparently tostones are not supposed to be this big. I guess the chef decided to just fry and flatten an entire plantain, instead of slicing them up and flattening them as per usual. No matter, it was delicious anyway.
This is the mofongo. Here, I had it with mixed seafood but mofongo is basically mashed green plantain. It can be paired simply with gravy, vegetables, seafood, beef, chicken and all sorts of meat. Some restaurants will mix the plantain with other ingredients, depending on their interpretation, but mofongos are generally quite heavy. Mashed like this, it was quite clear that green plantains were a lot more substantial and filling than mashed potatoes. While we can expect mashed potatoes to be airy, the mashed plantains here is solid. This is great for someone who wants a very generous, healthy source of carbs, but I actually prefer the green plantains fried as tostones. The mashed plantain maybe a little bland and dull in texture if the stew or meat it’s paired with lacks flavor. Still, I think mofongos are something fun to try while in Puerto Rico.
The amarillo. This is fried or baked ripe plantains. Since the plantains are ripe, they contain more sugar and are a lot sweeter than when they’re raw. The amarillo tasted like caramelized bananas and is quite sweet and softer than tostones. The amarillo is also served as a side dish like tostones in restaurants. I prefer tostones, just because the amarillo tasted more like a dessert than a starchy side dish, but give it a try when you have the chance.