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Mofongo
Mofongo
Mofongo
Course Main course
Place of origin  Puerto Rico
Serving temperature Hot
Main ingredients Plantains, chicharrón, olive oil, and garlic
Variations Fufu, Tacacho, Cayeye, Mangú
Other information Popular throughout:
Puerto Rico
Dominican Republic
New Jersey
Florida
New York City
Boston
Colombia

Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish with fried plantains as its main ingredient. Plantains are picked green and fried, then mashed with salt, garlic, broth, and olive oil in a wooden pilón (mortar and pestle). The goal is to produce a tight ball of mashed plantains that will absorb the attending condiments and have either pork cracklings (chicharrón) or bits of bacon inside. It is traditionally served with fried meat and chicken broth soup. Particular flavors result from variations that include vegetables, chicken, shrimp, beef, or octopus packed inside or around the plantain orb.

Origins

Mofongo's roots lead to the African fufu, mixed with some Spanish and Taíno influences. Fufu is made from various starchy vegetables and was introduced to the Caribbean by Africans in the Spanish New World colonies such as Cuba (fufu de plátano), Dominican Republic (mangú), and Puerto Rico (mofongo) this also most likely includes Colombia (cayeye), Amazon region and Peru (tacacho).

Mofongo first appeared in Puerto Rico's first cookbook, El Cocinero Puertorriqueño, in 1859.

These ethnic groups that populated Puerto Rico used the technique of a mallet to mash large amounts of starchy foods. The mash was then softened with liquids and fats. The word “mofongo” stems from the Angolan Kikongo term mfwenge-mfwenge, which means “a great amount of nothing at all.”

Culture

Mofongo evolved from fufu using the African method with vegetation available in the Caribbean. Plantains are most often used, but other starchy roots native to the island used by Taínos can also be used. Puerto Ricans have an obsession with fried food known collectively as cuchifrito in New York City and Kiosks in Puerto Rico. Spanish ingredients such as pork, garlic, broth, and olive oil are commonly used together in Puerto Rican cuisine and are found in staple dishes such as arroz con gandules, alcapurria, pasteles, habichuelas, recaíto, arroz junto, among others. The method of frying comes from the African side and is heavily used more than anyplace in the Caribbean. Broth is often made with chicken and sofrito. Sofrito is made with Spanish and Taíno fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Method

Pilon para mofongo 2011
A pilón to make mofongo

Plantains and/or starchy roots are cut about half an inch thick and deep-fried. When done, the plantains/roots are crisp outside, but dense inside. The plantains/roots are then mashed in a wooden mortar and pestle called a pilón made with mahogany or guaiacum, both native hardwoods. Broth, olive oil, garlic, and pork cracklings are added and mashed as well. The consistency of mofongo is much more stiff than fufu. In Africa, fufu is accompanied by a bowl of soup. In Puerto Rico, traditionally mofongo is accompanied by chicken broth soup, but braised meat has become more popular.

Variations

Shrimp mofongo from Rompeolas restaurant in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
Shrimp mofongo from Rompeolas restaurant in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

It is also common in Puerto Rico to make mofongo with cassava (mofongo de yuca), breadfruit (mofongo de pana), combination of breadfruit or cassava, with ripe and green plantains (trifongo), and ripe and green plantains (Bifongo or mofongo de amarillo).

Mofongo stuffed with shrimp (camarón in Spanish) is called camarofongo.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday that has been adopted by Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans' outside the commonwealth. Turkey is the main focus on every Thanksgiving table and is traditionally stuffed with bread. The bread stuffing can be mixed with mofongo or replaced with mofongo. The dish is called pavochon.

Frito-Lay produces MoFongo Snax, a combined plantain chips, cassava chips and pork rinds into one bag.

Mofongo with crab meat in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Mofongo relleno with crab meat in Culebra, Puerto Rico

Mofongo relleno is a stuffed variation of mofongo, which, according to Yvonne Ortiz, was first made in "Tino's Restaurant on the west coast of Puerto Rico" when seafood, abundant in the region, was placed inside the plantain ball with braised meat or more seafood poured over it. Nowadays, mofongo relleno is commonly stuffed with either seafood, poultry, or another meat.

Mofongo outside of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, U.S.A. plantains
"Puerto Rican matzoh ball"? From a U.S. booklet promoting tourism titled Puerto Rico, U.S.A.

During the 1960s many Dominicans who feared the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo fled to Puerto Rico and New York City. Mofongo caught on quickly with Dominicans living in Puerto Rico and New York City. Mofongo has become a flagship food for many Dominican restaurants. Moca, Dominican Republic is known for adding Cheddar cheese.

Bolón de verde is a similar dish in Ecuador. The dish appears much later in Ecuadorian cuisine. Plantains are boiled or roasted, mashed with chicarrón and cheese (queso blanco) formed into balls and fried.

Mofongo has become popular among Colombians, Cubans and Dominicans living in the United States and anywhere large numbers of Puerto Ricans or Dominicans reside.

Mofongo has become popular in high-end Latin restaurants and Pan-Latin restaurants. Mofongo is served with Peruvian ceviche, South American churrasco and chimichurri, Cuban ropa vieja, Colombian ajiaco, Méxican salsa verde and meat, and other comparable contexts.

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