Plantains, Plátanos and the Puerto Rican Day Parade

When I moved from New Mexico to Southern California I was introduced to new-to-me Chicano and Mexican-American food (different than New Mexican grub, but that’s a topic for another time). It was in Pomona, California that I became extremely attached to my Mexican grocery stores, fully equipped with in-house tortillerias that not only made fresh tortillas but also churned out manteca de puerco and freshly fried totopos. Even better each store also had a panaderia that baked sweet, colorful and crusty pan dulce and fresh-from-the-oven bolillos filled with jalapeños y requesón.

L.A. gave me three tasty years of real Mexican food, so when we departed for the East Coast I sad a sad adios to chayote, chile y Bimbo brand bread of La Favorita Rancho Market and Cardenas and became acquainted with the  platanos, sofrito and Goya brand habichuelas (are frijoles, who knew?) of my new Morningside heights and Harlem grocers.

Although I live very near “little Mexico” in Harlem, a comfort that provides me with the best Mexico City style quesadillas and ingredients from flor de jamaica to cuitlacoche, I have made a point to become familiar with the Puerto Rican culture and cuisine that dominate the Latino scene here in New York City. With each grocery trip I sample ingredients typical of la Isla del Encanto and investigate how to cook them up well!

Embracing the culture has been important to us too. Some Saturday afternoons Alex and I people watch and buy homemade madurosbacalaitos at La Placita de la Marqueta. If we’re feeling especially feisty we join-in and dance the salsa and bomba, although the viejos tear up the floor with more energy and style than we’ll ever possess.

And this June we even marched with our boricua hermanos in the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Just like their Mexican cousins, Puerto Ricans and Nuyoricans wave their flag con mucho orgullo! As we marched the crowed chanted,  Yo Soy Boricua, Pa’Que Tu Lo Sepas! (I’m Puerto Rican, Just So You Know!). By the end of the parade my brother, Alex and I were three Mexicans chanting it too!


This recipe is based of the two most widely used recipes for preparing plantains in the Puerto Rican manner. Making plátanos maduros requires you to simply cut and quickly fry a very ripe, black sweet plantain. Preparing plantains  this way is common throughout the Caribbean and also in Veracruz, Mexico (which is no surprice since it is a coastal state with a huge African and Caribbean influnces). Puerto Rican Tostones, on the other hand, are made from unripe green plantains that, because of their extra starchiness, are fried, smashed and fried again.

The following recipe is a mash-up of the two methods. I take sweet, ripe plantains and prepare them like twice-fried tostones and serve them with a squirt of lime juice, a sprinkle of salt and a dash of chile powder (they’re also tasty with a drizzle of crema). If you don’t have a tostonera don’t fret, I’ve seen the women who sell tostones at La Marqueta mash their plantains between two paper plates!

Tostones Another Way
Ripe, black plantain
Vegetable Oil
Chile Powder
Crema (optional)
Peel the plantain by carefully cutting length-wise from one tip to the other, taking care not to pierce the flesh of the fruit.    Loosen the peel along the cut and remove the meat of the plantain.Cut the plantain into slices, each about 2 inches long.

In a large skillet on medium-high heat 1/2 cup oil (so the oil is about 1/2 inch deep).  Test the oil by  carefully sticking the end of a wooden spoon in, if it sizzles it’s ready. Once the oil is hot, fry the plantain slices for approximately 3 minutes on each side, just so they are tender.
Remove plantains to a plate and pat off excess oil with clean paper towels. Turn off heat. Use a tostonera (plantain press) or two paper plates to smash the plantains into rounds half their original thickness.
Reheat the oil on high and place each smashed plantain in the oil, frying for about 1 minute on each side, just until golden brown. Remove from heat and drain on clean paper towels. Sprinkle with lime juice, salt, chile powder and cream (optional) and enjoy immediately.

11 Responses to “Plantains, Plátanos and the Puerto Rican Day Parade”
  1. Platanos are a popular dessert here in Mexico. Many restaurants serve them fried with crema. I love them with lime juice, a bit of honey and creme. I see Puerto Ricans share with Mexicans a love for two favorite seasonings, chile and lime juice. As long as I have been in Mexico, I don’t want to put chile on a fried platano.


  2. Monique says:

    Love your blog! It makes my mouth water!!

  3. Hello. I recently found your blog and love your flair. I totally agree with you and the treasures to beheld in regional ethnic cuisines. I’m Mexican American and now live in Colorado, where the New Mexican influence is heavy on Mexican food – a lot of green chile.

    Looking forward to following you. FYI, I just scored some fresh huitlacoche the other day from my community garden.

    • gabriellemarielopez says:

      Andrea, I’m glad you found my blog too! I enjoyed your post on verdolagas. In fact, this past weekend I was at the greenmarket trying to remember what the Spanish/Mexican name for purslane was.

      You’re so lucky to have access to fresh cuitlacoche. Were the seeds you grew the corn from heirloom Mexican corn? I’ve heard that North American corn has eradicated the delicacy of corn smut.

      I look forward to hearing more from you!

      • The huitlacoche (also cuitlachoche) came from heirloom corn grown by a friend in my community garden. Growing up, my momma could get some from local corn farmers (I grew up in Nebraska). Now that the corn is GM and hybridized, you may be correct that they’ve eliminated the smut. However, there is also a growing market for it, and I read somewhere a few years back that some farmers were purposely introducing the fungal spores to their crops since they could sell huitlacoche much higher than corn. I can’t remember where this was happening but will let you know if I locate the info.

  4. Marcela says:

    What a great post and great pictures. I have never tried platanos this way. They look yummy!!!

  5. gloria says:

    I loved the tour and the food even better. Thank you.

  6. Shadiah says:

    Gabriela — did you go to Pomona College?? I don’t see your last name anywhere but I’m sure it’s you!! lol

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