The Wandering Kitchen: Puerto Rico
In the Skagit Valley Food Co-op’s Wandering Kitchen Travel Blog Series, we’re taking you on a virtual trip to some of the best places on Earth for world-class cuisine. Whether it comes from your backyard or a different continent, good food has the power to transport you anywhere you want to go. So while you might not travel to the heart of India, the Caribbean, or the boot of Italy by plane, train, or automobile, you can take your taste buds on a trip simply by turning your dining table into a delicious destination for some of the world’s best food.
We’ll be featuring locations near and far known for their food, inspirational recipes to try in your own kitchen, as well as products you can find in the Co-op to give you a taste of the cuisine.
In this edition of The Wandering Kitchen, we’re taking a virtual trip to a warm, sunny destination worth daydreaming about during the rainy season: the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico. With blue skies and even bluer water, Puerto Rico is obviously best known for its weather and sandy beaches, but its food and drink are unforgettable, too.
Why Puerto Rico?
Taking influence from European, African, and Taino Arawak cuisine, Puerto Rican food has extended far beyond the island, and you can find its influence all over the United States. Utilizing mostly indigenous seasonings and ingredients, Puerto Rican food celebrates the bounty of food that’s grown in the tropics including cassava, pineapples, avocado, and sarsaparilla, just to name a few.
And if you love sipping piña coladas on a hot day, you’ve got Puerto Rico to thank for that. Both the blended and iced versions of the sweet cocktail both originated on the island in 1963.
Puerto Rico Inspired Recipes
While we can’t bring you you warm water and sandy beaches, you can certainly get a taste of Puerto Rico in your own kitchen! And if you want to enjoy your homecooked tropical meal with a piña colada, don’t forget to add a tiny umbrella.
Made up of unripe plantains, garlic paste, and pork rinds, mofongo is a major staple snack in Puerto Rico. Vegetable oil is heated in a large pan and chopped up plantains are fried up till they’re perfectly golden and tender.
Next, they’re combined with the pork rinds and mashed with a mortar and pestle before being formed into a ball shape and served warm. You can serve mofongo as a side dish or appetizer to a larger Puerto Rican feast, or you can serve it with some shrimp and beans and rice to round out the meal.
Somewhat similar to fish and chips, Bacalaitos are Puerto Rican style fried codfish fritters that feature a simple breading and a perfectly crispy texture.
Traditionally, they’re made out of pre-salted codfish, but you could certainly make them out of fresh cod if you prefer. In order to get that perfectly flaky texture, you’ll need to shred the fish prior to adding the batter and frying it.
Sometimes served as a snack, sometimes served as a side to a larger meal, in Puerto Rico, you can find these treats served at the beach, on the roadside, or at festivals.
If you’re looking for a mighty tasty sandwich, consider the Puerto Rican tripleta! Featuring grilled steak, lechon pork, and ham, this meaty sandwich is topped with fries, ketchup, mayo, cheese, and veggies, and is all held together on a loaf of fresh bread.
As you can imagine, this sandwich is quite filling, and oftentimes its split between 2 people. It’s a pretty common street food item in Puerto Rico, and is the perfect lunch for a long day at the beach, or stuck at home couchsurfing.
Here’s another Puerto Rican snack that celebrates the bounty of plantains. Simply put, tostones are fried slices of plantains that are crushed into a thin slice and sprinkled with kosher salt.
Traditionally, they’re deep-fried, but nowadays you’ll find recipes that are baked or air-fried to cut down on the calories. They’re eaten as a snack as if they’re potato chips or french fries, so try them as an appetizer or just a quick munchie with minimal prep.
They’re even better alongside some green sauce or ceviche.
Pull that blender out from the pantry and your rum from the freezer, because it’s time for a fiesta of fruit!
The now world-famous piña colada was created in San Juan, Puerto Rico by bartender Ramón “Monchito” Marrero at the Caribe Hilton in 1954.
The original blend was simply rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice. Of course, nowadays, there are a plethora of bartenders who have tweaked the recipe to put their own spin on it.
The link below will give you some more interesting facts about the origins of this tropical drink, as well as the original piña colada recipe that was served at the Caribe Hilton.
In the South, they’ve got BBQ pulled pork. In the Philippines, they have pork adobo. And in Puerto Rico, pork shoulder is transformed into Pernil.
Pernil is a slow-roasted marinated pork leg or shoulder that’s typically served as the main dish around Christmas time in Puerto Rico along with another classic Caribbean dish, Arroz Con Gandules.
The marinade itself consists of a simple combination of paprika, salt, vinegar, garlic, and oregano, making Pernil an easy dish to make at home to get a taste of the tropics.
Puerto Rican Food Staples Available at The Co-op
- Co-op housemade Coconut Rice Pudding, known as Arroz con Dulce in Puerto Rico, available in the Deli
- Plantains, for tostones & mofongo, often available in produce
- Cassava flour, cassava grows in Puerto Rico and is a popular root vegetable
- Adobo seasoning, available in bulk