The Magic of Mofongo

Mofongo. I love the word. Pronounced just like it's spelled. Undoubtedly of African origin. Basic Puerto Rican mofongo a mixture of crushed plantains and fried pork crackling shaped into balls, similar to meatballs. Cuban mofongo differs in that the mixture is shaped into one large ball served in a bowl. Modern variations have the mofongo stuffed with beef, poultry, or seafood, especially lobster. It is delicious as an appetizer, side dish, or a meal on its own. And, yes, the recipe is from my first cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Perseus Books Group).


5 green plantains
1/2 pound salted pork, washed and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
Vegetable oil for frying

1. Peel Plantains and cut into diagonal slices about 1-inch thick.
2. Place plantains and diced salted pork in a pot with water to cover. Let soak for 10 minutes.
3. Drain and wipe dry both plantains and salted pork.
4. Place salted pork in a hot skillet or frying pan (no extra oil is necessary). Stir-fry over high heat until pieces are browned and crisp (about 5 minutes) and put aside. This is known as the chicharron or pork crackling.
5. Heat vegetable oil in the same skillet and deep-fry plantains until golden. Drain well on paper towels.
6. Crush plantains and pork crackling together in a mortar. This may have to be done in batches depending on size of mortar. Place in a bowl and set aside.
7. Crush garlic cloves in the mortar. Blend in the olive oil.
8. Add garlic-oil seasoning to the plantains and crackling, and mix thoroughly.
9. Scoop up a tablespoon of the mixture and shape into a ball (about 2-inches in diameter, or larger if desired). Repeat until mix is used up.
10. Serve by itself or with your favorite sauce, or gravy.
Yield: 12 or more mofongo balls.

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