Mofongo (Garlic-Flavored Mashed Plantains) is a very tasty dish with pork rind mixed in and strong umami flavor that will become your new favorite recipe.
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Mofongo is a dish with a special place in the hearts and stomachs of Dominicans. However, concedes Aunt Clara, the version we know best actually originates in the neighboring island of Puerto Rico. While there is also a Dominican mofongo, it was traditionally made with plantains roasted on coal (sources), as opposed to fried plantains. This was, therefore, different from the Puerto Rican mofongo we’ve now come to love.
Not surprisingly, I know some Dominicans who would take serious issue with that claim. This is the flagship dish in many typical Dominican restaurants like Adrian Tropical, which offers a number of variations on the theme. Some Dominicans would consider it heresy to label it as a foreign import.
Mofongo – never, ever to be confused with mondongo! – is a sensitive subject. I always have to think twice before saying the word, especially when ordering in a restaurant. I don’t know what I’d do if a steaming plate of innards was put in front of me instead. I’m also going to re-read this article very carefully to make sure I haven’t put my foot in it, so to speak.
Putting that aside for a moment…
What is mofongo?
Mofongo is a tasty dish made with fried green plantains, which are mashed with garlic and mixed with pork cracklings, then shaped into a ball and served in a pilón (the mortar bit of the pestle and mortar).
Classic mofongo is made with chicharrón (fried pork rind), but other variations exist. Adrian Tropical also does a chicken version and – my choice – a garlic shrimp alternative. They are all served with a garlicky broth to moisten the plantain and bring out the flavor. It is a popular comfort food, and can be eaten for lunch or supper. Mofongo is also a popular snack for late-night revelers.
Mofongo in Puerto Rico and in the Dominican Rep.
I had the pleasure of visiting Puerto Rico last month. Go to Puerto Rico and you’ll find the same thing – mofongo is all over the place there too.
So much of Puerto Rican cuisine is similar to Dominican, that it’s difficult to say who invented what. There are some differences, like in the spelling. What we know as guandules (pigeon peas) in the DR is spelled gandules in PR. Similar or identical dishes sometimes have different names. And some Puerto Rican dishes share a name but nothing else with some Dominican dishes.
So, Dominican or Puerto Rican?
The short answer: It is both. There may be differences in how they were traditionally made in each country, but the similarities are more numerous than the differences.
How’s this for a compromise? Puerto Rican and Dominican cuisine share the exact same roots: Taíno, African and Spanish. Both countries have Middle Eastern and Chinese immigrants, as well as European influences apart from the Spanish. The only striking difference being the Corsican influx to Puerto Rico. Later influences may have varied – for obvious reasons. Puerto Rico has a much stronger US influence than the Dominican Republic, for example, while the DR has closer contact with its Haitian neighbors.
Mofongo, however, comes from the African side of the family so that’s where we shall say its origins really lie. Dominicans and Puerto Ricans are the grateful heirs.
* Notes and research by Aunt Clara
More mofongo recipes?
- Camarofongo (Shrimp Mofongo recipe)
- Mofonguito cups stuffed with shrimp and avocado
- Ripe Plantain Mofonguito Cups recipe
- Boricua Mofongo by Sazon Boricua
(1) Amanda Ornes de Perelló, Cocina Criolla. Sto. Dgo.: Ed. del Caribe, 1962.”Mafongo [sic] […] Se asan plátanos y se majn [sic] y se mezclan con chicharrón molido”(1) Ligia de Bornia. Comidas Típicas Dominicanas. Sto. Dgo: Arte y Cine, 1965″Mofongo […] Maje los plátanos asados y los chicharrones en el mismo pilón”