Once again as I’m freezing at my keyboard in the middle of winter, I’m dreaming of warm destinations. This week I’m bringing you the food of Puerto Rico–Cocina Criolla. The cuisine is rooted in the traditions of Spain, Africa, and the Tainos natives.
Puerto Rico Regional Favorites and Where to Eat ‘Em:
Tostones at El Jibarito:
Tostones are twice fried plantains. In Puerto Rico they are usually served with a garlic sauce called mojo. Enjoy your tostones in the brightly painted El Jibarito. Enjoy genuine Puerto Rican home-cooking; the food is all made by the owner’s wife Alda.
Mofongo at Cafe Manolin:
Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish with its roots in African cuisine. It is made with mashed, fried plantains with broth, garlic, olive oil and chicharron. It can be filled with vegetables, chicken, crab, shrimp or beef. It is often served with meat and broth poured around it. Cafe Manolin has been serving locals and tourists alike for sixty years and is known as one of the best places in San Juan to eat authentic comida criolla. Make sure you try the colao coffee. This is a no frills diner style restaurant with reasonable prices.
Jibarito at El Platanal:
The jibarito is a sandwich made with flattened and fried green plantains substituted for the bread. They are served with garlic flavored mayo and usually are filled with meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato. There is some controversy over whether these sandwiches are actually Puerto Rican and they seem to have taken off in a Puerto Rican restaurant in Chicago. After some research my opinion is that the popularized name “jibarito” comes from Chicago, but the actual sandwich, which goes under many other names, comes from Puerto Rico. El Platanal specializes in plantain dishes–so where else would you go to enjoy a plantain sandwich?
Mavi at any Street Vendor:
Mavi (or mauby, or maubi, or mabi) is a beverage made with the bark and/or the fruit of the soldierwood tree and spices such as aniseed. It is widely consumed throughout the Caribbean. It is served both fermented and unfermented. It is slightly fizzy and is reminiscent of root beer.
The Tripleta at Tico Tripleta:
The tripleta is similar to a Cuban sandwich and combines chicken, ham and beef. Each of the three meats is grilled and served on a roll with condiments. Tico Tripleta is a food truck found at a nighttime street market in Old San Juan parked at the corner of Calle Comerico and Calle de San Justo. Another must try is the Philly. Seriously. Some natives of Philadelphia have actually claimed the Tico Tripleta’s is better than those at home..
Pinchos at Willy’s Pinchos
Pinchos are Puerto Ricos answer to Yakitori or Shish Kebab–in other words “meat on a stick.” It is usually served with a couple of pieces of bread. Willy’s is an old-fashioned hole-in-the-wall popular with the locals. Don’t expect anything fancy, just the best pinchos and good beer.
Check out some of our other articles on Travelling the Caribbean: The Key to Eating in Key West, Three Things You Must Do in St. Lucia,and Escape to Paradise–Aruba Vacations. Check out these articles on preparing for the sun: 10 Things to Get Beach Vacation Ready, and Preparing for Vacation with Permanent Hair Removal.