"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

February 25, 2020

Puerto Rican Food

"In order to really get to know a place and the people, you've got to eat the food." -Emeril Lagasse

Puerto Rico's cuisine is a unique merging of ingredients, cultures and recipes. The native Taíno Indians, the Spanish conquistadors and the African slaves have all influenced what has come to be known around the island as cocina criolla, or Creole cooking. The local dishes usually incorporate different types of meat, garlic, olive oil and rice. They often contain the starchy staple plantains, whose taste is a cross between a banana and a potato. (click on highlighted text to get recipe)

Mofongo is the unofficial king of Puerto Rican cuisine. It's a tasty concoction of mashed plantains, seasonings and an unlimited choice of fillings including vegetables, shrimp, steak, pork, and seafood.
Lechón asado is spit-roasted suckling pig, so beloved in Puerto Rico dish that there is a road in Guavate, called the Ruta del Lechón (Pork Highway). Along this road you'll see and smell the delicious lechoneras, or rustic, open-air roadside eateries. This dish is prepared by slow roasting the whole swine, swaddled in salt, pepper, oregano, garlic and ajíes dulces, over a wood charcoal fire. 
Arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) is the island's national dish. This dish has distinctive Caribbean roots, but the Puerto Rican twist is in the secret sauce known as sofrito. This aromatic sauce is sautéed or braised beforehand and gives the dish it's zesty flavor. Arroz con gandules is typically made with pork, chorizo, red peppers and olives.
Asopao de Pollo is Puerto Rico's answer to chicken noodle soup. This homemade savory soup is made with chicken and rice. Most restaurants have it on their menu, as it is a favorite with the Islanders. Asopao de pollo is actually more like a gumbo than a soup and may include chicken, shellfish or pork along with peppers, pigeon peas, olives and tomatoes.
Alcapurrias (stuffed fritters) can be found as street food all over the island. A beach food staple, these delights are usually made with a batter of green bananas and stuffed with crab, shrimp, or lobster. Other variations include cuchifritos (stuffed with pork), almojábanas (cheese-filled rice fritters), bacalaítos (codfish fritters), and buñuelos (yam fritters).   
Tostones are served as an appetizer. The dish is made by smashing plantains and frying them. We ate a version of these in Costa Rica and loved them.
Empanadillas are savory fried pastries traditionally filled with ground beef, but you can find them stuffed with chicken as well. You can also find pastelillos in Puerto Rico, which are a smaller, more buttery, flaky and delicate version of the empanadillas.
Rellenos de papa are potatoes stuffed with ground beef and deep fried to create a crispy outer layer. The meat filling, called picadillo, is ground beef mixed with adobo, sofrito, tomato sauce, olives, oregano and garlic powder. The picadillo is then stuffed into mashed potato balls and fried in hot oil. The result is a savory fried potato croquette. 
Pastelon is the Puerto Rican version of traditional Italian lasagna. The filling is made from fried meat seasoned with oregano and cumin and mixed with sofrito, olives and tomato sauce. The meat is placed between layers of ripe, thinly-sliced plantains, topped with cheese and baked in an oven. Pastelon has a unique taste that is both salty and sweet.
Asopao is a blend of rice and soup that is popular across the Caribbean. The dish is similar to gumbo and is often paired with seafood, chicken or pork. The most popular in Puerto Rico is asopao de pollo, which is made from broth, rice, chicken, oregano, tomato, olives, onion, garlic and other seasonings. 
Coco Rico is the Coca Cola of Puerto Rico. It has a fairly light flavor and is similar to Sprite, but with a coconut aftertaste. 

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