|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 fried plantains as its main ingredient. Plantains are picked green and fried, 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.
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), Dominican Republic (mangú), and Puerto Rico (mofongo) this also most likely includes Colombia (cayeye), Ecuador (bolón), Costa Rica (angú), and Amazon region and Peru (tacacho).
These 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 Angolan Kikongo term mfwenge-mfwenge, which means “a great amount of nothing at all.”
Mofongo first appeared in Puerto Rico's first cookbook, El Cocinero Puertorriqueño, in 1859. The title of the recipe is mofongo criollo. In that first recipe green plantains are cleaned with lemon, boiled with veal and chicken and then mashed with garlic, oregano, ají dulce, bacon, and ham. It is then formed into a ball and eaten with the veal and chicken stock. Roasted plantains with garlic is also in the same cookbook and later would be introduced to Dominican cuisine in the 60's as mofongo with fried meat on the side. 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. It would later be changed again with green plantains and half-ripe plantains fried and mashed with garlic, bacon, broth, and chicarrón in the 50's in Puerto Rican cookbooks.
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.
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), breadfruit (mofongo de pana), combination of breadfruit or cassava, with ripe and green plantains (trifongo), and ripe and green plantains (Bifongo or mofongo de amarillo).
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 with mofongo. The dish is called pavochon.
Frito-Lay produces MoFongo Snax, a combined 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. Nowadays, mofongo relleno is commonly stuffed with either seafood, poultry, or another meat.
Mofongo outside of Puerto Rico
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 restaurants and also presenting its self in to Dominican cookbooks in the 1960s. 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". Clara Gonzalez, also known as Aunt Clara, is a Dominican chef and author. In her cookbook (Tradition Dominican cookery) she says "mofongo has a special place in the Dominicans' hearts and stomachs but can be traced back to Puerto Rico". Moca, Dominican Republic is known for adding Cheddar cheese.
Bolón de verde is a similar dish in Ecuador. The dish appears much later in Ecuadorian cuisine. Plantains are boiled or roasted, mashed with chicarrón and cheese (queso blanco) formed into balls and fried.
Mofongo has become popular in high-end Latin restaurants and Pan-Latin restaurants. Mofongo is served with Peruvian ceviche, South American churrasco and chimichurri, Cuban ropa vieja, Colombian ajiaco, Méxican salsa verde and meat, and other comparable contexts.
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.
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations featured mofongo in Season 2, Episode 2: Puerto Rico where Bourdain and his friend Andy Diaz dine on mofongo at the beach. "That is just a tower of goodness," Bourdain says.
Mofongo is mentioned numerous times on the NBC TV Show Sanford & Son, when characters Fred and Lamont, (Redd Foxx and Desmond Wilson respectively) interact with their Puerto Rican neighbor Julio, (played by 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.
- 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