One of the most popular dishes of Puerto Rico’s cuisine is the “mofongo”. Although most people would say that mofongo’s main ingredient is the mashed fried green plantain, there are two other key ingredients needed for the distinct flavors of this gastronomic masterpiece: garlic and “chicharrón volao” (“volao” roasted pork cracklings).
Mofongo and its cooking method are the result of Puerto Rico’s African and Taino heritage as well as the Spaniards’ conquest of the island. Plantains are tropical fruits originally from Africa, which were imported by the Spaniards during their voyages to the island of Puerto Rico. The garlic was also imported by Spaniards. The Puerto Rican tradition of frying food, such as plantains, has deep African roots. Also, Puerto Ricans owe the Tainos for their creativity to craft the famous “pilón”, referring to the wooden mortar and pestle which are key culinary utensils for the elaboration of mofongo.
Besides the splendid balance of flavors of the green plantain, garlic and “chicharrón volao”, a peculiar characteristic of mofongo is that it may be tasted in a variety of dishes. For instance, you may savor the ingredients of the pure mofongo (nonstuffed mofongo), or you may indulge while eating mofongo stuffed with chicken broth or seafood such as lobster, octopus, conch or shrimp. Another option is to eat mofongo soaked in chicken broth.
Throughout the years we have tried multiple mofongo dishes, and our conclusion, overall, is: yummy! Yet, we must say that our favorite one is the pure mofongo since we only taste the pure and simple well-balanced flavors of this dish. For those who have never tasted the pure mofongo, we definitely recommend to first savor this dish. Once you have done this, engage in the adventure of tasting the family of mofongo dishes.
Let’s cut to the chase now. Below we share the recipe of a Puerto Rican retired chef, who cooks the most delicious mofongo that we have ever eaten in our lifetime.
Yield: 1 mofongo
Key utensil: “Pilón” (Mortar and pestle) (minimum 4 ½ inch diameter)
1 big peeled green plantain
2 big garlic cloves
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon of salt
“chicharrón volao” (“volao” pork cracklings) (to taste)
olive oil (to taste) (optional)
1) Place a cooking pot or deep fryer on the stove at medium heat temperature. The pot or deep fryer must be filled with vegetable oil up to the point that it almost covers the plantain slices.
2) Peel off the green skin of the plantain. Cut the green plantain in 1 or 2-inch diagonally-shaped slices.
3) Once the vegetable oil is heated at medium temperature, fry the plantain slices. Medium heat is important so that the inner part of the plantain is well cooked while reaching a tender texture at the same time. Make sure that the plantain does not get crispy or brown-colored.
4) Set aside a plate covered with paper towel. You will use this plate later to place the fried plantain slices.
5) While the plantain slices are still frying, put the garlic cloves in a “pilón” (mortar). Crush the garlic with the pestle. Mash the “chicharrón volao” in the mortar, and mix it with the crushed garlic. Add salt and mix it. Pour vegetable oil (¼ tablespoon) in the mortar, and mix it with the crushed garlic and mashed “chicharrón volao”. Taste the mix, and add oil if needed. The mofongo mix should be moist.
6) Turn over the plantain slices while being fried. Read our tips subsection to find out how to check if the plantain slices are well cooked.
7) Put the well-cooked fried plantain slices on the plate covered with paper towel, and cover it completely with a lid. You may use a casserole lid.
Let the plantain slices rest on the plate for around 2-3 minutes while the paper towel absorbs vegetable oil. Please do not let the plantain slices rest more than 3 minutes because you need these to be hot for the next step.
8) Put and mash the plantain slices one by one in the mortar while mixing each in circular motion with the rest of the mix in the mortar. By the end of this step, you shall have created mofongo!
After mixing well these ingredients, make sure that the mofongo is placed in the mortar in such a way that its shape resembles the mortar hole's. The resulting mofongo should have a hole in the middle.
9) Using a dull knife, carefully detach the mofongo from the mortar. Make sure to keep the mofongo shape while you do this.
10) The way to place the mofongo on a plate depends on the type of mofongo dish you are cooking.
a) Pure mofongo- Turn upside down the mofongo so that its hole is downward.
b) Stuffed mofongo (filled with seafood, meat or chicken broth). Put your dish in a small bowl or “pilón”.
c) Chicken broth with mofongo- Turn upside down the mofongo and put it in a soup bowl. Then pour the chicken broth in the bowl.
For the pure mofongo, you may pour olive oil on top of it.
You may delight yourself while tasting the pure mofongo as a side dish of Puerto Rican meals, such as rice and beans, seafood salad, and “bistec encebollado” (beefsteak cooked with onions).
Besides mofongo, some restaurants and kiosks in Puerto Rico serve “trifongo”, which root vegetable ingredients are green plantain, medium ripe plantain (“pinto”) and cassava. It is a savory dish as well as the mofongo. Just remember to taste first the pure mofongo and then discover the rest.
The great chef behind the mofongo recipe we share is Héctor “Cano” Rodríguez, whose mofongo creation delighted for many years the clients of Los Hermanos Seafood Restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Even though this chef has retired and the restaurant is currently closed, we hope his mofongo recipe helps you to cook a savory and soft mofongo. Since chefs never really retire, we are still surprised with the savory mofongo Cano cooks. Check out our photo gallery to see the elaboration process of this great mofongo.