What’s cookin': plátanos three ways

Guest post by Amanda Moreno, CHC Processing Assistant

As a complement to our new exhibit, “Food and Memory: An exploration of Cuban cooking, 1857-today,” we are rolling out a new weekly series on Cuban recipes, past and present. From classic cocktails and cafecitos to traditional arroz con pollo and much stranger fare (read: blood), we will take you on a culinary journey that explores the delicacies of Cuban cuisine.

In our inaugural post, we focus on three different preparations of a classic Cuban ingredient, the plátano.

Fufú

Workers picking bananas in a Cuban plantation. Photograph from the Ramiro A. Fernández Collection.


Workers picking bananas in a Cuban plantation. Photograph from the Ramiro A. Fernández Collection.

This plantain mash is of West African origin, introduced into the Cuban diet by way of the 18th century slave trade to the Caribbean. Fufu is still eaten in West and Central Africa as an accompaniment to nut and vegetable soups, with plantains substituted for cassava or yams as they are the more readily available starchy vegetables in the region; the Caribbean version is less doughy than its African counterpart. The name of the dish varies throughout the Caribbean, known as mangú in the Dominican Republic and mofongoin Puerto Rico.

In José Triay’s Nuevo manual del cocinero criollo (1914), the author suggests pairing fufú with quimbombó á la Criolla, his recipe for okra. Fufú is prepared by boiling peeled malanga and plantains in salt water and kneading the mash into balls. Triay’s Fufú criollo switches out malanga for yams and adds a butter-based sauce with tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions and sesame seeds.

Sopa de plátanos verdes

Recetas útiles de cocina (1982, pg. 4) offers a recipe for plantain soup, quoted below.

Ingredientes

1 ½ plátanos verdes

1 ¼ de litros de caldo

1 limón

Preparación

Pele los plátanos y lávelos con la mitad del limón, luego échelos en ¼ de litro de caldo y cocínelos hasta que estén blandos. Aplástelos en el mortero con 2 cucharadas del caldo restante, y cuando estén como un puré incorpórelos al caldo que queda. Por último, agrégueles una cucharada de jugo de limón y déjelos hervir durante ½ hora.

Children in a plantain field. Photograph from the Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection.

Children in a plantain field.Photograph from the Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection.

Plátanos maduros fritos

María Antonieta Reyes Gavilán y Moenck’s recipe for plátanos fritosis as short as it is sweet:

“Se elige el plátano bien maduro; esto se conoce al tacto porque el plátano debe estar muy suave, se le quita la cáscara y se parten en lascas finas a la larga; se fríen en manteca abundante y a fuego vivo, deben quedar dorados” (Delicias de la mesa: Manual de Cocina y Repostería, 1957, pg. 399).

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