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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Puerto Rican Culture – Mofongo

mofongo [moh – fohn′ – goh]

All the way home from school, I wondered if my mother’s morning promise would actually happen. Would she or would she not prepare mofongo as she had said that morning? I could barely contain my excitement as I opened our door. An aroma of garlic wafted toward me, but was it from the mofongo? The moment I walked into our kitchen and saw the pilón wood mortar, I knew I had gotten my wish. I didn’t need milk and cookies as an after-school treat. Mami had prepared the mashed plaintain dish for me. I could sit and eat mofongo directly from the pilón. If my nonPuerto Rican classmates only knew what they were missing!

Though mofongo is a traditional Puerto Rican dish, its origins may have been the fufu dish of Africa. It is also now popular in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere in the Caribbean. Indeed, today, I will travel an hour and a half to reach a Cuban restaurant that serves the best authentic mofongo around.

There are probably as many mofongo recipes as there are cooks, but here is a basic one, courtesy of

(Makes about 3 medium size balls)

Monfongo is made by mashing tostones (twice fried plantains) with garlic, olive oil, and chicharrón or bacon.

3 green plantains
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ lb. chicharrón or cooked bacon (crumbled)
Vegetable oil for frying

First make tostones as follows:
green plantains
oil for frying
garlic powder
Slice the peeled plantains diagonally into 1" slices. Fry the slices over medium heat until they soften. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Using a tostonera (a press), slightly mash each piece to about half an inch in thickness. If a tostonera is not available insert the pieces between a folded piece of brown-paper sack and press down using a saucer. It is best to press all the pieces first before going on the next step. Dip each piece in warm salted water and fry again until crispy. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Next, mix together the garlic olive oil and chicharrón or bacon.

Mash the tostones, a few at a time in the pilón (never use a food processor), adding a little bit of the garlic mixture. You will have to work a few slices at a time. When all done mix all the batches together for even distribution of seasoning. Add salt if needed. This is a side dish that needs to be served warm. Keep forming balls until mixture is all used up.

Serve with fried pork meat and fried onions, or with soup, or as a side dish….. yummy!

Even The New York Times has recognized the humble mofongo, though their version looks a little too gentrified for my tastes. You can also have the relleno versions, where the mofongo is stuffed with additional ingredients. Pork, shrimp, and chicken are among the favorites, but stewed beef and other seafood can also be used. All delicious. And, seriously, almost the best part of eating mofongo is eating it right out of the pilón.

Now let me see if I can convince my husband to hop in our car and head for La Carreta Restaurant.


Mayowa said...

I've had fufu many many times. I've had plantains many many times.

Together? Not yet :)

This calls for a great hunt of the internets for the nearest resturant that serves mofongo.

Judith Mercado said...

Mayowa: if you live in the greater NY metropolitan area, you should be able to find a restaurant serving mofongo. I must say, though, that I have not found it to be a common item, even in that area's PR restaurants. Good luck.

Mayowa said...

Thanks for tip. I'm all the way in SC so the odds are slim. Still I look forward to it.

nilki said...

I just had mofongo for the first time a few weeks ago (can you believe it?) it was mofongo de camarones and delicious!!!!

Thanks for leaving a comment at my blog Musings, I'm so glad I found your blogs through your comment! I'm a new follower!

A Cuban In London said...

The minute I read the title of your post, I thought that's 'fufu de platano'. Yeeesss! Fufu/mofongo rules. Funny that, though, I didn't use to like it when I was little. But when I was finally allowed in the kitchen (four women in the house, tell me about it :-D) I did exactly what your mum used to do, but it was mashed bananas, not plantains. You use plantains and in Cuba we have two types, 'platano burro' for tostones and 'platano macho' for 'mariquitas' (plantain chips).

What a fab trip down memory lane for me. And my daughter's been pestering me for a long time to cook plantain. Well, here's the excuse. :-)

Greetings from London.

Judith Mercado said...

Niki - so glad we've found each other.

Cuban - I'm glad I eased your trip down memory lane. For some reason, mofongo is not frequently eaten by folks who have left the islands, and yet, after my post, I keep getting the same reaction you had. Your daughter is one lucky girl to have you prepare her mofongo.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Sounds tasty!

I just read your comment on my blog and I totally feel your pain. Being in the query trenches is like a roller coaster, one that sometimes goes too high and drops too fast.

Hang in there!

Judith Mercado said...

Thanks, Stephanie. I know my experience is not unique.

Nevine said...

Judy, I regret to say I have never tried this scrumptious sounding dish. One always learns new things from your site, especially because you are a woman so proud of your culture and also so knowledgeable about it. I've never even made fried plantains before, though I've eaten them. One of my husband's best friends from childhood is an American whose mother is Puerto Rican and she makes the most delicious food. I'll make sure to ask her if she can make this for us the next time we visit... I'm always hesitant to try my hands at a dish unless I've tasted it made by the hands of a native. Thank you for sharing... I'll be looking forward to tasting and then trying to make it myself!


Judith Mercado said...

Nevine, I hope you enjoy your first tasting of mofongo. It is a unique dish; well, at least in the western world.

Mari's Cakes said...

Hola Judith!

I really love this recipe it is really one of my family favorites. This is a favorite in Dominican Republic here is my version of it with Dominican chicharrones: Mari's Mofongo.

You have a new follower.

Have a blessed Sunday!