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|Culture of Puerto Rico|
Puerto Rican cuisine is a product of diverse cultural influences, including Taíno Arawak, Spanish Criollos, and Africans. It is characterized by a unique blend of Spanish seasonings and ingredients, which makes it similar to Spanish and other Latin American cuisines. Locally, it is known as cocina criolla.
The roots of traditional Puerto Rican cuisine can be traced back to the 15th century. In 1848, the first restaurant, La Mallorquina, was opened in Old San Juan. The island's first cookbook, El Cocinero Puerto-Riqueño o Formulario, was published in 1859.
Many of the starchy root vegetables used in Puerto Rican cuisine, collectively known as viandas, have their roots in the diets of the indigenous Taíno people. These include cassava (Spanish: yuca) and Tannier (Spanish: yautía) which are staples in traditional Puerto Rican dishes. Other popular root vegetables include Yam (Spanish: ñame), sweet potato (Spanish: batata), and taro (Spanish: malanga), all of which are cultivated in the mountain regions of the island.
It is hypothesized that Taínos used cooking methods that resemble what is called barbecue today. By some counts, the earliest recorded use of the term barbecue can be traced back to a journal entry made by a Spanish settler upon landing in the Caribbean. The term was used by the indigenous Taino people, who referred to the practice of slow-cooking food over a raised wooden platform as barabicu, which means "sacred pit" in their language. While the Tainos likely slow-roasted fish due to the region and their diet at the time, this cooking method may have given rise to what we know today as barbecue.
See: Spanish cuisine
- Arroz con dulce – In Puerto Rico rice pudding is made with rice, sugar, coconut milk, milk, clove, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, rum, and raisins. Some variations include added purees such as squash, sweet plantains, batata, yuca, and ripe breadfruit. Cream cheese and pistachios are popular and a rice pudding made with additional egg, lemon peel, and cream cooked just like crème brûlée. The first written record known to exist about this dish dates 1859 but historians can trace it as far back as the 16th century.
- Flan – A milk and caramel custard very popular throughout Puerto Rico. There are several ways to make this dish. Some are unique to Puerto Rico, such as breadfruit and sesame seeds. Coconut and pumpkin are two popular varieties.
See: African cuisine
Coconuts, coffee (brought by the Arabs and Corsos to Yauco from Kafa, Ethiopia), okra, taro (malanga), tamarind, yams (ñame), sesame seeds, gandules (pigeon peas), plantains, many varieties of bananas, other root vegetables and Guinea hen, all came to Puerto Rico from, or at least through, Africa. African slaves also introduced the deep-frying of food, such as cuchifritos.
Seafood and shellfish
On some coastal towns of the island, such as Luquillo, Fajardo, and Cabo Rojo, seafood is quite popular.
- Cetí – A type of whitebait found in Arecibo.
- Chillo – Red snapper is a favorite among the locals.
Traditional cooking on the island uses more fresh and local ingredients such as citrus to make mojo and mojito isleño and especially fresh herbs, vegetables and peppers to make recaíto and sofrito.
The base of many Puerto Rican main dishes involves sofrito, similar to the mirepoix of French cooking, or the "trinity" of Creole cooking. A proper sofrito is a sauté of freshly ground garlic, tomatoes, onions, recao/culantro, cilantro, red peppers, cachucha and cubanelle peppers. Sofrito is traditionally cooked with olive oil or annatto oil, tocino (bacon), salted pork and cured ham. A mix of stuffed olives and capers called alcaparrado are usually added with spices such as bay leaf, sazón and adobo.
Puerto Rican dishes
Although Puerto Rican diets can vary greatly from day to day, there are some markedly similar patterns to daily meals. Dinners almost invariably include a meat, and rice and beans.
Codfish and taro is also a popular dish.
- Dulce – The fusion of American mainland and Puerto Rican food can be clearly seen in Thanksgiving desserts. Puerto Rican desserts use the same traditional ingredients as American holiday desserts including pumpkin, yams, and sweet potatoes. Classic sweets are infused with sweet viandas. Flan de calabasas (squash flan), Tortitas de Calabaza (pumpkin tarts), Cazuela (a pie made with pumpkin, sweet potato, coconut, and sometimes carrots), Barriguitas de Vieja (deep-fried sweet pumpkin fritters made with coconut milk and spices), Cheese cake with tropical fruit, Buñuelos de Calabasas o platáno (pumpkin or sweet plantains doughnuts), and Budín de Pan y calabasas (bread pudding made from squash bread).
Puerto Rican culture can be seen and felt all year-round, but it is on its greatest display during Christmas when people celebrate the traditional aguinaldo and parrandas – Puerto Rico's version of carol singing. Puerto Rican food is a main part of this celebration.
- Pasteles – For many Puerto Rican families, the quintessential holiday season dish is pasteles, a soft dough-like mass wrapped in a banana or plantain leaf and boiled, and in the center chopped meat, shellfish, chicken, raisins, spices, capers, olives, sofrito, and often garbanzo beans. Puerto Rican pasteles are made from either green bananas or starchy tropical roots. The wrapper in a Puerto Rican pastel is a banana leaf.
- Tembleque – Sweets are common in Puerto Rican cuisine. During the holidays, one of the most popular are desserts such as tembleque. This is a coconut-based dessert pudding. It can be made with 2 cans of coconut milk, ¾ cups of sugar, ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt, ½ cup of cornstarch, 1 pinch of ground cinnamon (for garnish), and toasted coconut (for garnish).
- Chocolate caliente – hot chocolate made with cocoa, vanilla, milk, and spices and topped with whipped cream.
Rustic stalls displaying many kinds fritters under heat lamps or behind a glass pane can be spotted in many places throughout Puerto Rico. Collectively known as frituras, these snacks are called cuchifritos in New York City, but to be strictly correct, cuchifritos are the mom-and-pop stores where frituras are sold. In Puerto Rico, the name quiscos (kiosk) is used to refer to the cuchifrito. Quioscos are a much-frequented, time-honored, and integral part to a day at the beach and the culinary culture of the island. Fresh octopus and conch salad are frequently seen. Much larger kiosks serve hamburgers, local/Caribbean fusion, Thai, Italian, Mexican and even Peruvian food. Most kiosks have a signature alcoholic drink.
- Bacalaítos – Bacalaítos are codfish fritters that are served at many kiosks.
- Sorullos – The cornmeal equivalent of mozzarella sticks, except fatter and shorter. They are often made with cheese.
Puerto Rican food outside Puerto Rico
- Cuchifritos – In New York, cuchifritos are quite popular. Cuchifritos, often known as "Puerto Rican soul food"[by whom?] includes a variety of dishes, including, but not limited to: morcilla (blood sausage), chicharron (fried pork skin), patitas (pork feet), masitas (fried porkmeat), and various other parts of the pig prepared in different ways.
- Jibarito (plaintain sandwich) – In Chicago, el jibarito is a popular dish. The word jíbaro in Puerto Rico means a man from the countryside, especially a small landowner or humble farmer from far up in the mountains. Typically served with Puerto Rican yellow rice, jibaritos consist of a meat along with mayonnaise, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and onions, all sandwiched between a fried plantain, known as a canoa (canoe). In the early 20th century, bread made from wheat (which would have to be imported) was expensive out in the mountain towns of the Cordillera Central, and jíbaros were made from plantains which are still grown there on the steep hillsides. The version introduced to Chicago was originally made with skirt steak, but today it can be found in versions made with chicken, roast pork, ham, shrimp and even tofu.
- Alfredo Ayala - was recognized as the father of Puerto Rican modern cuisine
- Doreen Colondres - chef, television presenter, food writer and sommelier
- Luis Antonio Cosme – Puerto Rican actor and television chef
- Giovanna Huyke – television chef
- Dora Romano – author of Cocine Conmigo written in 1972
- Daisy Martinez – author of Daisy Cooks: Latin Flavors That Will Rock Your World written in 2005 and Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night written in * of Daisy Cooks! on PBS and ¡Viva Daisy! on the food network
- Maria Perez – author of Tropical Cooking Made Easy  written in 2007
Table with typical sweets in Húcares, Naguabo
Rotisserie chicken, twice-fried plantain in Ciales, Puerto Rico
Papa rellena de Puerto Rico
Mofongo, prepared in New York
pigeon peas (gandules)
Yuca, Puerto Rican name for cassava
Green and red cubanelle peppers are used to make sofríto
Plantain "arañitas" and "tostones rellenos"
Ajíes caballero (aka, Puerto Rican Jelly Bean Hot Chili Pepper) is a very hot local pepper
Marinated cassava (Spanish: Yuca en escabeche)
Parcha, passion fruit, is often made into passion fruit juice
Coconut with straw at restaurant in Esperanza, Vieques
Pique (Puerto Rican Hot Sauce)
Puerto Rican cooking has a unique blend of influences.
Grilled yellow snapper with green papaya salad and tostones
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