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 ElBoricua.com:
(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:
oil for frying
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.