This Caribbean region is home to the most tropical and exotic cuisines which are being loved by many foodies around the world. Puerto Rico is not only gaining popularity for being in the Caribbean Sea, but also its complex tropical flavors – a mix of Mexican and Spanish flavors have been surfing the islands of the Caribbean.
The country’s cuisine boasts of the use of fresh native ingredients, mostly produced in the bountiful island of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican food, more commonly known as comida criolla when put to easier terms, means plantains and pork, highly influenced by Spanish, African, Mexican cuisines among others. Dive in for a treat around the island of Caribbean flavors unlike anything else.
Arroz con Gandules. This is a staple dish in any occasion in the island –a dish made with rice and Pigeon peas. Generally known as the national dish of Puerto Rico, Arroz con Gandules is a popular native Caribbean dish. What makes it different from other kinds of Arroz con Gandules is the secret sauce infused by Puerto Ricans as a twist. The Sofrito is the secret ingredient to an authentic Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules. This is one dish that the ingredients are highly influenced by the Spanish cuisine. A typical Arroz con Gandules consists of pork, chorizo, ham, red pepper, and olives. There’s another version of the dish which uses rice and beans instead. This is called Arroz con habichuelas.
Asopao. If you’re up for a chicken soup for the soul, you must try Puerto Rico’s classic tomato stew. But unlike your ordinary stew, the stew is actually thickened with rice. This dish is served with many variations. Chicken Asopao is the most common kind of this dish. Chicken parts are marinated with different herbs and spices to give it a nice blend of flavors before being cooked. Another favorite variation is Asopao de gandules, which is made with Pigeon pea and is good for your vegetarian diet. Nothing beats a lovely comfort food with a twist.
Mofongo. Probably one of the most famous Puerto Rican dishes is this fried, mashed plantain that is also native to other Caribbean regions. Plantains, which is a variety of banana but a little less sweeter and harder in texture is mashed up together with garlic, olive oil, broth, and bits of bacon or pork rind. There are unlimited options for filling and stuffing a Mofongo. You can fill it in with vegetables, chicken, seafoods like shrimps and crab meat, or beef and may sometimes be served with fried meat and chicken soup. Every street and nook of Puerto Rico serve this traditional native dish with every vendor putting his/her own twist to this Puerto Rican favorite.
Tripleta. Puerto Rico flavors are definitely not limited in the big restaurants and diners in the region as this area is home to a growing number of street food wonders. One of the more famous treats that can be found on the streets of Puerto Rico is Tripleta. This sandwich is similar to the Cuban’s sandwich but is more meat-packed and with a Puerto Rican twist. Locals have found a way to mix chicken, pork, and beef meats altogether in a single baguette or bread. The meats are seasoned and grilled, with its textures and flavors blending with local condiments to give a very delectable sandwich. It is also spread with ketchup, mayo, mustard and topped with crispy fried potatoes. This meaty Puerto Rican sandwich is surely oozing with goodness.
Empanadillas. This pastry is Puerto Rican’s version of a smaller empanada. Empanadillas are made of flour dough and lard. It is stuffed with meat like chicken, chorizo, turkey, or picadillo; spinach, green peas or Pigeon peas, coconut, marinara sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Once all the goodies are placed, the dough is folded and sealed on the edges to seal the stuffing in. Cassava based empanadas are those that are made from cassava flour dough and are commonly stuffed with seafood meats. There is a multitude of Empanadas and Empanadillas around the world, as highly influenced by Latin American countries. This is popularly sold at the beach areas of Puerto Rico.
Alcapurria. Another Puerto Rican treat that is famous in the region is Alcapurria. This Puerto Rican fritter dish, like the empanadillas, is made of dough and stuffing. The doughy mixture (masa) is made with mashed root crops or vegetables and tubers stuffed with very flavorful meat. Calabazas, potato, Yautia, plantains, and other tropical tubers are used to make the doughy mixture. The meat is typically made of spicy ground beef like picadillo but other Alcapurria makers use chicken or crab meat. The mixture is refrigerated for a couple of hours until it reaches a semi solid consistency, after which the stuffing is spooned over some mixture and then sealed before deep frying in oil. This is also commonly sold at Cuchifritos, kiosk stands, especially near the island’s beach areas.
Arróz con dulce. This traditional dessert is a staple in Puerto Rican parties and events. Arróz con dulce is basically sweet rice pudding. It is made of coconut cream, cinnamon and sweeteners like sugar. This dessert suits the tropical climate of Puerto Rico. The addition of coconut cream is a Caribbean twist to this traditional dessert, giving a refreshing feel to your palates on a tropical weather. This is commonly served during the Christmas holidays, enjoyed by family and friends.
Tembleque. Staying loyal to its native products, tembleque is basically a coconut pudding in Puerto Rico. The word tembleque is Spanish for jiggly, evident in its jelly-like features. It is described as a smooth coconut custard or pudding. Basically, it is made with coconut cream, coconut milk or plain milk, cornstarch, sugar to sweeten, and vanilla for additional flavor. It is commonly topped with cinnamon (optional) or coconut shavings. Other varieties of tembleque include corn kernels in the mixture and topped with cheese and ground nuts. This has surely made its way to the international scene but it remains true and distinct in every Puerto Rican home that serves tembleque.