|Place of origin||Puerto Rico|
|Main ingredients||Plantains, Chicharrón, olive oil, and garlic|
|Variations||Fufu, Tacacho, Cayeye, Mangú|
New York City
Mofongo (Spanish pronunciation: [moˈfoŋɡo]) is a Puerto Rican dish with fried plantains as its main ingredient. Plantains are picked green and fried, then mashed with salt, garlic, and oil in a wooden pilón (mortar and pestle). The goal is to produce a tight ball of mashed plantains that will absorb the attending condiments and have either pork cracklings (Chicharrón) or bits of bacon inside. Most dressings and mixtures include broth, garlic, and olive oil. It is traditionally served with fried meat and chicken broth soup. Particular flavors result from variations that include vegetables, chicken, shrimp, beef, or octopus packed inside or around the plantain orb. Mofongo relleno is a stuffed variation of mofongo, which, according to Yvonne Ortiz, was first made in "Tino's Restaurant on the west coast of Puerto Rico" when seafood, abundant in the region, was placed inside the plantain ball with braised meat or more seafood poured over it. Nowadays, mofongo relleno is commonly stuffed with either seafood, poultry, or another meat.
Mofongo's roots lead to the western African Fufu, mixed with Spanish and Taíno influences. Fufu is made from various starchy vegetables and was introduced to the Caribbean by Africans in the Spanish New World colonies such as Cuba (fufu de plátano), Dominican Republic (mangú), and Puerto Rico (mofongo) this also most likely includes Colombia (cayeye), Amazon region and Peru (tacacho). Fufu consists of starchy root vegetables and plantains boiled then mashed until a dough-like consistency with water, butter, or milk.
Clara Gonzalez, also known as Aunt Clara, is a Dominican chef and author. In her cookbook (Tradition Dominican cookery) claims that mofongo has a special place in the Dominicans' hearts and stomachs but can be traced back to Puerto Rico. Ramona Hernandez, director of the Dominican Studies Institute of the City University of New York, has been interviewed for many magazine on Dominican food and culture, she also says "mofongo is a dish borrowed from Puerto Rico that has much success with Dominicans". Mofongo first appeared in a cookbook called El Cocinero Puertorriqueño – Puerto Rico's first cookbook in 1849. Mofongo in Puerto Rico is available everywhere, not only on tables but built into the culture and identity. It's in their art, pop culture, music, television, books and has a strong history on the island.
Mofongo evolved from fufu using African method with Spanish and Taíno ingredients. Plantains are most often used, but other starchy roots native to the island used by Taínos can also be used. Puerto Ricans have an obsession with fried food known collectively as cuchifrito in New York City and Kiosks in Puerto Rico. The usage of Spanish ingredients such as pork, garlic, broth, and olive oil together is heavily used in Puerto Rican cuisine. Staple dishes such as arroz con gandules, alcapurria, pasteles, habichuelas, recaíto, arroz junto and many other dishes all include garlic, pork, olive oil, and broth. The method of frying comes from the African side and is heavily used more than anyplace in the Caribbean. Broth is often made with chicken and sofrito. Sofrito is made with Spanish and Taíno fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
Plantains and/or starchy roots are cut about half an inch thick and deep fried. When done, the plantains/roots are crisp outside, but dense inside. The plantains/roots are then mashed in a wooden mortar and pestle called a pilón made with mahogany or guaiacum, both native hardwoods. Broth, olive oil, garlic, and pork cracklings are added and mashed as well. The consistency of mofongo is much more stiff than fufu. In Africa, fufu is accompanied by a bowl of soup. In Puerto Rico, traditionally mofongo is accompanied by chicken broth soup, but braised meat has become more popular.
It is also common in Puerto Rico to make mofongo with cassava (mofongo de yuca), taro and eddoe (mofongo de malanga y yautía), bread fruit (mofongo de pana), or a combination of cassava, ripe and green plantains (trifongo), ripe and unripe plantains (mofongo de amarillo).
Thanksgiving is an American holiday that has been adopted by Puerto Rico. Turkey is the main focus on every thanksgiving table and is traditional stuffed with bread. The traditional bread stuffing is replaced with mofongo de batata (plantain and sweet potato mofongo) in Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans homes outside the commonwealth. Turkey stuffed with Mofongo can be prepared with seasonings that are traditionally used for pork (marinated in garlic, black pepper, dried oregano, parsley, vinegar and annatto seeds), in which case it can be called "Pavochon."
Frito-Lay produces MoFongo Snax, a combined plantain chips, cassava chips and pork rinds into one bag.
Mofongo outside of Puerto Rico
In Cuba, Mofongo is called Machuquillo "por la acción de machucar el plátano en el mortero" (because of the task of mashing the plantains in the mortar). The plantains are not fried but boiled. Machuquillo is often garnished with parsley and served with roasted pork or chicken.
During the 1960s many Dominicans who feared the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo fled to Puerto Rico and New York City. Mofongo caught on quickly with Dominicans living in Puerto Rico and New York City. Mofongo has become a flagship food for many Dominican restaurant adding their own flavors such as queso frito (fried cheese) to mofongo, mashed with no broth and sometimes olive oil is replaced with butter. The plantains in making traditional mofongo are not always fried; they are sometimes boiled, shaped into a ball and stuffed with meat. During the 1960s mofongo started to appear in Dominican cookbooks. Mofongo stuffed with shrimp (camaron in Spanish) is called camarofongo.
In popular culture
Food Network chef and host Guy Fieri featured mofongo from Benny's Seafood (in Miami, Florida) and from El Bohio (in San Antonio, Texas) on two separate episodes of his show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. He liked the dish so much that he called it the "best fried thing I ever ate" on an episode of the show The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
Anne Burrell is featured in a Season 2 episode of Chef Wanted with mofongo as the opening dish challenge.
An episode of the Travel Channel's Man v. Food Nation, set in Harlem, showed the host, Adam Richman, visiting a Spanish Harlem restaurant called La Fonda Boricua, where they make a giant 12-plantain mofongo called the "Mofongaso".
In Sanford and Son, Fred and Lamont's Puerto Rican neighbor Julio makes and refers to mofongo in season 2's episode "The Puerto Ricans Are Coming". It is referred to again in season 3's episode "Fuentes, Fuentes, Sanford & Chico"
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations featured mofongo in Season 2, Episode 2: Puerto Rico where Tony and his friend Andy dine on mofongo at the beach.. "That is just a tower of goodness," said Tony.
- Voeks, Robert (2013). African Ethnobotany in the Americas. New York: Springer. p. 28. ISBN 1461408350.
- Carballo, Viviana (January 19, 2005). "Gusto! ; Plantains Carry Deep Roots of Tradition in Mofongo". Special to the Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
- Cordero Malavé, Deborah (2010). Plantain Hybrids: Fresh Market and Processing Characteristics. Mayaguez, PR: University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus. pp. 9, 41.
- Antonio Benítez Rojo (1996). The Repeating: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective. James E. Maraniss (translation). Duke University Press. p. 97. ISBN 0-8223-1865-2.
- Ortiz, Yvonne (1997). A Taste of Puerto Rico: Traditional and New Dishes from the Puerto Rican Community. Plume. ISBN 0452275482.
- Van Atten, Suzanne (2015). Moon San Juan, Vieques & Culebra. Avalon Travel. ISBN 1631212281.
- Hidalgo-Ayala, Ximena (November 20, 2014). "CAFE MOFONGO". Impacto: 10.
- Video: Guy Fieri on Mofongo on Food Network
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