Plantains are a staple food in the tropical regions of the world. In its ‘green’ or unripe stage it cooks like a potato with a similar neutral flavour and texture when steamed, boiled or fried. Plantains are, as I would say, a cousin of the banana. It is used more for cooking versus how the globally known banana is eaten as a fruit or snack and in its raw form. Plantains are bigger in size. In picking the right one at your local market always follow this rule of thumb, as the plantain ripens, it becomes sweeter and its color changes from green to yellow to black, just like bananas.
Green plantains are firm and starchy. Yellow plantains are softer and still starchy but sweet. Extremely ripe plantains have a deep yellow pulp that is much sweeter than the earlier stages of ripeness.
Our traditional way to enjoy plantains is ‘tajadas’ which are yellow plantains, after removing the skin sliced on a diagonal and pan fried in corn oil until golden. Platano asado is another great way since you throw it on the grill in its skin and all. Its fascinating to see its transformation as the pulp inside caramelizes and once the natural sweetness starts oozing its a self indicator of readiness. Cut a slit down the middle and sprinkle with queso fresco. Get creative and kick up the flavor by adding a sprinkle of salt and cayenne pepper.
A traditional dish from Cali is ‘Aborrajado’ which is know as ‘Yo-yo’ in Venezuela. This plantain fritter is made of two short slices of fried ripened plantain placed on top of each other, with local soft white cheese in the middle (in a sandwich-like fashion). The arrangement is dipped in an flour-egg batter with a pinch of salt and cinnnamon and fried again until the cheese melts and it acquires a deep golden hue. They are served as sides or entrees.
I am a firm believer how food connects the world and its fascinating to know that, in different variations, it is a staple in many corners of the world from Asia to Africa, to the Carribean and South America.
A comer se dijo!