ORLANDO, Fla. — Warning: Reading this story could cause hunger. Please proceed with caution.
If you've eaten this dish before, just reading the name will make your mouth water. Pastelón is Puerto Rico's sweet and savory take on Italian lasagna. The dish comprises layers of fried, thinly sliced sweet plantains and picadillo, a seasoned and sautéed ground beef. It's often topped with cheese. Short on time? Piononos are a hand-held, simpler version of the dish.
2. El Jíbarito
El Jíbarito is a sandwich made with flattened, fried green plantains instead of bread. It's typically filled with steak, melted cheese, a garlicky mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato. Although the sandwich is named after the island's rural farmers, it was created in Chicago by a Puerto Rican chef.
An empanadilla, which is Spanish for "little empanada," is a fried meat pie filled with ground beef, chicken or cheese.
A pastele is dough made from grated green plantains, green bananas, calabaza squash, yuca or malanga root. It's stuffed with meat, wrapped in a banana or plantain leaf and boiled. It's typically made during Christmastime.
Tostones are thick slices of green plantains that have been fried, flattened and refried. Think of them as hardier French fries. As an appetizer or snack, they're typically served with mayoketchup, a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup, fresh garlic and spices. As a side dish, they often share the plate with arroz con gandules, or rice and beans. Keep reading for more about that.
Mofongo is fried green plantains that have been mashed with sautéed garlic, olive oil and pork cracklings. It's often served with fried pork. Add fried sweet plantains to the mix and you have trifongo, mofongo's sweeter sibling.
7. Pernil y arroz con gandules
Pernil is marinated, slow-roasted pork shoulder, which is often made during holidays or other special occasions. The dish's crunchy skin and tender meat are often eaten with arroz con gandules, a combination of rice, pigeon peas and sofrito -- a sauce made from cilantro, peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and oil.
It's time for dessert. Flan is a popular dessert in many Hispanic countries, including Puerto Rico. The island's most popular flavor is flan de queso, which has a rich, cheesecake-like flavor.
Coquito, which is Spanish for "little coconut," is eggnog's Puerto Rican cousin. This eggless rum cream contains coconut milk, coconut cream, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. It's often made during the holidays and is typically served with a cinnamon stick.
Photos courtesy of Piñones en Orlando, Discover Puerto Rico, Flavors of San Juan Tours and Chef José Santaella and Sabor del Caribe.
Cox Media Group