Crazy for Mofongo

Back in January, Steven and I went on a vacation to Puerto Rico. Both of us work in client-based industries (Steven is a Client Advisor at BMW of Rockville, and I’m a legal consultant) and December is a crazy, crazy month for us. Between last minute client deadlines, Christmas sales, the general holiday insanity, and my graduate school studies (which thankfully are finished in August!!) we worked probably 250 hours each and got essentially no sleep. Therefore, a trip somewhere warm, wet and far, far away was warranted.

Enter: Puerto Rico.

I have thing for Latin American culture and design. While in general, I love modern, cleaned lined dwellings, I can really get down on late 19th century Spanish style. For example, our room in the first hotel we stayed in:

We stayed at The Gallery Inn in Old San Juan and they were kind enough to upgrade us to this magnificent room. We pretty much will only be staying there for future trips. I mean, they have a chandelier by their ridiculously awesome pool. It’s kind of a no brainer.

I discovered a love for the ocean (I can’t swim well at all, so beaches have never really appealed to me) through our many different stops on the island. We drove from San Juan to the West Coast to the East Coast where we took a ferry to Vieques, and got to see just about every topographical feature and beach Puerto Rico has to offer. Here are just a few of the different kind of beaches we encountered. We even saw a black sand beach, but unfortunately the run-off pretty much obscured the black sand part. But in all seriousness, who knew there were so many different kinds??

And while I loved the beach, and the whole thing was kind of magical, the one thing I just can’t get over is the food. It is as vibrant and as colorful as the landscape. After a pretty disastrous trip to New Orleans (we generally go every year for our anniversary, as that’s where we honeymooned), where finding vegan food was especially difficult and frustrating, I was a little wary that we might encounter the same problem. But boy was I wrong. Almost every place we went to had a vegan option, and they were understanding and not at all assholes about the whole thing. It was extremely nice to be in a place so vastly different from where we live and actually be able to relax about the food issue.

One of the things I discovered down there was Mofongo. Mofongo is a fried plantain dish that’s traditionally made with pork lard, plantains and some spices. It’s pretty simple, and pretty delicious. I was fortunate enough to come across a place that had a pork-lard free version, on our first night no less, and it was love at first taste.

Upon coming back to the states, I decided I desperately needed to learn how to make Mofongo (there is only one restaurant in D.C. that sells it, and it’s not very good). I picked up Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America, a big beautiful cookbook by Marciel E. Presilla I’ve been coveting for a long time which fortunately also had a Mofongo recipe. I then set about trying a few different means to veganize it. Here is the recipe that came from these efforts.

Vegan Mofongo

Ingredients:

  • 1 Vegan bouillon cube w/herbs and sea salt mixed in
  • Enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a pan (I tried coconut oil, and this works if you like a sweeter taste — I preferred it savory though)
  • 2 Plantains — Slightly yellow has been the easiest to work with so far

Tools:

  • Masher
  • Pan
  • Bowl
  • Large Ramekins

Coat the bottom of the pan with oil and set to medium-high heat. Place bouillon cube into the oil.

Slice the plantains into small pieces and place into the pan. Let them brown until they have a hard shell on the outside, and flip all the pieces.

Once both sides are browned, take the plantain pieces and place them into the bowl. Do not turn off the stove or take the pan away, because you’ll need it again.

Mash the plantains with the masher. You do not need to make it the same consistency as say, mashed potatoes, but you do need to mash the plantains enough that they stick together.

Spoon (or use your hands) the plantains into the ramekin. Tamp down so that the plantain mash is stuck together tightly. Flip the ramekin over and tap lightly until the whole thing slides out. Place the almost done Mofongo back into the oil.

Let the outsides of the Mofongo brown (sort of sealing it all together). This should only take about 5 minutes. Once that’s done, remove and enjoy!

I like to eat them with red beans, rice and avocado. It’s a fairly complete meal all on it’s own.

Now, can I go back to Puerto Rico again?

Please?

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