With coronavirus making travel a tricky and even potentially dangerous prospect this year, we’re embracing the summer staycation. All week (and all summer) long, we’ll bring you transportive flavors and travel-inspired ideas from around the world, so you can take your tastebuds on a trip and give your mind a mini vacation while you’re still at home. Here, how to make fried plantains for the ultimate crunchy snack.
Whether you call them tostones, platanos, patacones, or fritos, fried plantains are a deliciously crispy treat—and they’re easy to make at home! Senior video producer Guillermo Riveros shows you how:
I grew up eating patacones the way a lot of American kids grew up eating fries and chicken nuggets, as golden fried enticers to eat the more nutritious parts of a meal. It’s one of those magical foods that lives in the liminal space between snack and side dish (or maybe even main? I have made the case before for poutine or a patacon open-faced sandwich as valid main dish options).
They take many names: tostones, fritos, and platanos among them. No matter what you call them, if you’re lucky enough to be familiar with them you probably already love them, and if you don’t make them on the regular, you probably miss them like me. These delicious golden coins (in all their variations) are beloved staples of the Caribbean and many countries of Latin America.
The star here is the green plantain, an ingredient that may be foreign and exotic for some. Though related to bananas, these are generally not eaten uncooked; they have a more neutral flavor and are starchy. Indigenous to Southeast Asia and Oceania, they made their way to Central and West Africa where they thrived and became a fundamental part of many dishes. It was through the Columbian exchange that we inherited many of these farming and cooking techniques in the Caribbean and Central and South America. While in North America banana farming and consumption took a couple of centuries to take off, banana culture and dishes boomed across the Caribbean and Latin America.
This boom led to multiple variations in preparations, and sprouted multiple dishes and recipes using bananas and plantains. In Colombia we boil them, roast them, make stews and soups with them. But mainly we fry them to make patacones, and Patacon Pisao is the most commonly used name to refer to the twice-fried and smashed version I made here.
Although a simple process, making patacones could be considered an art form. First you start by peeling and cutting your plantain to the desired shape and size. This is followed by a first drop in hot oil to cook the pieces, which are then removed, smashed, and ‘bathed’ in a garlic salt water mixture before returning to the oil for a final fry. This second fry is the key to achieve the color and crunchy texture that makes them so addictive.
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Perfect for frying whatever strikes your fancy.
Patacones have become such an important staple of culinary tradition in coastal cities like Cartagena, that the recipe is now considered an important element of our cultural heritage in Colombia.
How to Eat Patacones
In Colombia you will find them as side dishes to all kinds of meals be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They are commonly served pretty much like french fries, straight out of the oil and salted, next to a variety of condiments and sauces. In places like Cartagena we eat them a lot of times just with suero (a fermented milk condiment similar to sour cream).
It is also not uncommon to use them as a vehicle for other foods, in the same vein you would use crackers or toast (ditch the bread next time you want to make avocado toast—avocado patacon is where it’s at!). To go the extra mile, you can top a salty patacon with queso, seasoned beef, and salsa the way you would on a taco or tostada.
With these guys the sky really is the limit, which makes them an ideal recipe for quarantine cooking.
Patacones (Green Fried Plantains) Recipe
Related Video: How to Make Chimichurri to Go Alongside
Header image courtesy of Guillermo Riveros