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|Alternative names||Mofongo pelao, mofongo criollo, mofonguito|
|Place of origin||Puerto Rico|
|Main ingredients||Plantains, chicharrón, olive oil, and garlic|
|Variations||Fufu, Tacacho, Cayeye, Mangú|
|Other information||Popular throughout:|
New York City
Mofongo (Spanish pronunciation: [moˈfoŋɡo]) is a Puerto Rican dish with plantains as its main ingredient. Plantains are picked green, cut into pieces and typically fried but can be boiled or roasted, then mashed with salt, garlic, broth, and olive 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. 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.
Origin and history
Mofongo's roots lead to the African fufu, mixed with some 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 and machuquillo), Dominican Republic (mangú), and Puerto Rico (mofongo and funche criollo);this also most likely includes Colombia (cayeye), Ecuador (bolón), Costa Rica (angú), Amazon region and Peru (tacacho).
The earliest known written recipes for mofongo appeared in Puerto Rico's first cookbook, El Cocinero Puerto-Riqueño o Formulario, in 1859. The title of the recipe is mofongo criollo. Green plantains are cleaned with lemon, boiled with veal and hen, then mashed with garlic, Oregano brujo, ají dulce, bacon or lard, and ham. It is then formed into a ball and eaten with the broth which it was cooked in.
In El Cocinero Puerto-Riqueño o Formulario there are similar recipes. Funche criollo made from green or yellow plantains boiled with taro or yams, mashed and eaten with sesame broth soup or a sauce made from garlic, lard, tomato sauce, onions, and ají dulce (sofrito).
The second recipe was written in 1948 by Elizabeth B.K. Dooley in Puerto Rican cookbook. The recipe calls for yellow plantains fried in lard, mashed with garlic, olive oil, chicarrón and formed into a ball.
The recipe has been frequently changed throughout Puerto Rico but maintained key ingredients such as fat, pork, starch, spices, broth, and a pilón for mashing. 1960's and 1980's in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic started writing recipes for plantains roasted over coal. The New York Times in 1980 had written a piece on Puerto Rican cuisine say "mofongo, it consists of mashed, roasted plantain, combined with pork and spices". El Cocinero Puerto-Riqueño o Formulario also had an example of green plantains roasted over coal and eaten with fat and garlic. A 1980 booklet from the US Government promoting tourism in Puerto Rico wrote of mofongo as being "jocularly described as a Puerto Rican matzoh ball".
Central African ethnic groups that populated Puerto Rico used the technique of a mallet to mash large amounts of starchy foods. The mash was then softened with liquids and fats. The word “mofongo” stems from the Kikongo term mfwenge-mfwenge, which means “a great amount of anything at all".
Mofongo evolved from fufu using the African method with vegetation available in the Caribbean. 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. Spanish ingredients such as pork, garlic, broth, and olive oil are commonly used together in Puerto Rican cuisine and are found in staple dishes such as arroz con gandules, alcapurria, pasteles, habichuelas, recaíto, arroz junto, among others. 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.
Food trucks around Puerto Rico, Florida, New York, and other parts of the USA serve mofongo as a fast food available in food trucks. A popular version in Puerto Rico is papas locas, crazy fries. Mofongo is placed flat in a takeaway container layered with French fries or yam fries, shredded meat or meats, chopped onions, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, lettuces, corn, melted cheese, and mayoketchup (fry sauce).
The name mofongo refers to cooked plantains mashed with fat (olive oil, lard, or butter), spices, and pork in a wooden mortar and pestle called a pilón (made with mahogany or guaiacum, both native hardwoods) and shaped more or less into a ball and served with broth. The mofongo is then able to absorb any juice or broth from the seared meat that is placed on top or inside of the dish. The consistency of mofongo is much more dense and stiff than fufu.
The bifongo is any combination of two starches fried and mashed together. Ripe and green plantains together is the most popular choice.
The trifongo is any combination of three starches fried and mashed together. Most popular is cassava with green and ripe plantains, but batata and breadfruit may be used.
Mofongo stuffed with shrimp (camarón in Spanish) is called camarofongo.
Thanksgiving is an American holiday that has been adopted by Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans outside the commonwealth. Turkey is the main focus on every Thanksgiving table and is traditionally stuffed with bread. The bread stuffing can be mixed with mofongo or replaced entirely with mofongo. The dish is called pavochon.
Frito-Lay produces MoFongo Snax, combining plantain chips, cassava chips and pork rinds into one bag.
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. Today, mofongo relleno is commonly stuffed with either seafood, poultry, or another meat.
Moca, Dominican Republic is known for making a mofongo with cheddar cheese shredded on top. It has been called mofongo Dominicano and mofongo el Mocano.
Outside Puerto Rico
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. After Rafael Trujillo death many Dominicans returned to the Dominican Republic, bringing the recipe for mofongo, which has remained popular ever since. The first Dominican cookbook to have a written recipe of mofongo is Cocina Criolla, second edition by Amanda Ornes, in 1962. The recipe is called "mafongo" using roasted green plantains mashed with just chicarrón and oil. Ramona Hernández, director of the Dominican Studies Institute of the City University of New York has said, "mofongo is a dish borrowed from Puerto Rico that has much success with Dominicans". Dominican chef Clara Gonzalez, also known as Aunt Clara, says in her cookbook, tradition Dominican cookery, "mofongo has a special place in the Dominicans' hearts and stomachs but can be traced back to Puerto Rico".
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.
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.
Mofongo was mentioned numerous times on the 1970s U.S. NBC situation comedy Sanford & Son when characters Fred and Lamont (Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson) interact with their Puerto Rican neighbor Julio (Gregory Sierra).
- Torres, A. (2006). Latinos in New England (in Spanish). Temple University Press. p. 106. ISBN 978-1-59213-418-2. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
- 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.
- Barradas, Efraín (2010). De Maeseneer, Rita; Collard, Patrick (eds.). Saberes y sabores en México y el Caribe (in Spanish). Boston: Brill. p. 269. doi:10.1163/9789042030459. hdl:1854/LU-1013097. ISBN 978-90-420-3045-9.
- Puerto Rico, U.S.A. US Government. 1980.
- 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 978-1631212284.
- Video: Guy Fieri on Mofongo Archived 2011-11-25 at the Wayback Machine on Food Network