While I have very much enjoyed our adventures to Old San Juan and El Yunque, one of the highlights of my vacation to Puerto Rico has been la comida – the food! Growing up, it was standard for my family to have a dish of rice and beans in the refrigerator – a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine. However, there are many other dishes that were unavailable or hard to get in the States. So, going back to the island is one of the few opportunities I have to eat like a true borinquen (Puerto Rican).
Having not been to Puerto Rico in about three years (eeeek!), I had forgotten how much I love plantains. While plantains are available in many grocery stores in the States and can be found in many other Caribbean cuisines, they never quite taste as good as they do in Puerto Rico.
Unlike a banana, you do NOT want to eat a raw plantain; they must be cooked or processed in some way to be yummy and edible. In Puerto Rico, plantains are made into a number of dishes: amarillos, mofongo, and pasteles to name a few. My favorite, though, is tostones (tohs-tohn-ays).
Tostones are plantains that have been sliced, flattened, and fried. Eaten plain or with garlic sauce, they are delicioso! Fortunately, over the last five days, Tyler has come to love tostones as well, and we’ve vowed that when we return home, we will make some not-as-good-American-tostones together.
Therefore, before we left the island, we picked my mother’s brain for instructions on how to do so, and this is what we got:
2-3 green (ripe) plantains
5-6 cups of vegetable oil (for frying)
- Using a sharp knife, cut off the ends of the plantain.
- Take the knife and make a shallow slit down each side/curve of the plantain. Do NOT cut into the fleshy inside.
- Leaving the peel on the plantain, wrap it in a damp paper towel.
- Microwave on high for 7 minutes.*
- Carefully, remove the plantain from the microwave and allow to cool enough so that you can handle it.
- Finally, remove the peel (which should already be coming off on its own) and cut the plantain into ~2 inch chunks on the diagonal. If you do not cut them at an angle, your tostones will be thicker and less crispy once fried. So, the diagonal is always best! You should end up with about 5 or 6 chunks (per plantain).
- Now, with a tostone press (tostonera), flatten each chunk of plantain.
- Place the flattened slices into a skillet of hot oil. Allow the slices to cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until they look golden.
- Finally, remove from the oil and allow the tostones to rest on a plate lined with paper towels. Season with salt if desired.
*I should note that my mother specifically mentioned (and it’s kind of obvious too) that using the microwave is absolutely not the traditional method for making tostones. Traditionally, tostones are sliced, fried, smashed, and then fried AGAIN.
Serves 4 to 6 people
I found a great visual for the recipe on Marcus Samuelson’s blog: