I feel like if I start this blog post with “hey there stranger, long time no talk” you all will just roll your eyes and say we get it….we can’t count on you to be consistent. Well, sorry. This past week has been a s*** show and honestly, I was pretty unfocused. Fear not, I have a plan on how I can bring you guys sweet stuff to read to distract you from the stress over the holiday season or your wacky family.
As you know if you follow me on Instagram (shameless plug), I briefly lived in Puerto Rico this year and while I was there I tried some pretty bomb food. Not so bomb, you’ve probably never had any of this amazing grub. Unless you live in a sweet place where you can get insanely authentic Latin food, you’re missing out on KILLER food which has influence from Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. Lucky for you, I have tried most of what I’m about to share with you either when I lived in Puerto Rico or when my grandmother, a proud Boricua who left the island in the fifties to go live in the Bronx as most Puerto Ricans did, had cooked traditional dishes for me. Sure you’ve probably heard of or even had mofongo, tostones, or rice and beans but there is so much more to Puerto Rican cuisine. Down below are more options to snack on between hiking up and down 16th-century Spanish forts in San Juan and surfing epic waves that are stories high in Rincon. Here is how to eat like a local in Puerto Rico.
I’ve also lived in Spain where the national dish on the east coast is paella. Well, asopao is like a cross between that Spanish rice dish and soup. Traditionally, the dish is made from sofrito (you’ll see that a lot in PR), chicken thighs, rice, ham and maybe peas. So good and you don’t even need an abuela to make it for you, it’s super easy.
Basically, this is beef stew. It’s different from your beef stew in let’s say, Minnesota, because in Puerto Rico they add pumpkin and like five different starches like yucca, plantain, potato, squash, yautia (I honestly had no idea what the hell this was but here’s a good description), and bananas. Oh and corn so I guess technically that’s seven. Needless to say, sancocho is pretty dang filling and probably a pain in the ass to prepare all those roots so let’s bring in grandma for this one. Eating with grandma? That’s definitely how to eat like a local in Puerto Rico.
Rellenos de papa
FRIED. STUFFED. MASHED POTATOES. I honestly just can’t even find other words for this. Just go get some, okay?
I’m going to throw something crazy at you right now. Imagine having a soft bread kind of like a croissant but flakier and sweeter with ham and cheese inside with a dusting of powdered sugar on top. Somehow, this crazy combination works but actually, now that I think about it, when I was a kid pancake on a stick was my favorite breakfast food. So I kind of get it. I had it at this charming hipster bistro in San Juan called Cafe Marquesa (It’s in the Santurce neighborhood). They have an INCREDIBLE brunch so you should go there to “get some work done.” A.K.A go there like every other day, sit outside with your cafecito and people watch as your laptop stays open on a blank page craving you to create something.
All the fried stuff
Right before you’ve gone on a juice cleanse or tried and failed a major lifestyle/diet change, you’ve probably devoured some deep fried, greasy, make you come back for more food. I feel you because I’ve done the exact same thing. Except mine was actually with a Domino’s pizza sitting on Condado beach but whatever, close enough. Puerto Rico definitely has its fair share of crispy good stuff like empanadillas, bacalitos, tostones, alcapurrias, chicharrones and almojabanas to name exactly seven but there’s probably more in some remote village or at the neighbors’ house. Here’s a cool guide created by Speaking Latino comparing all these different varieties of snacks because I feel like that’s a whole other blog post on its own.
Here, Italy meets the Island of Enchantment. Well maybe not, I actually don’t really know if a mass of Italians came to Puerto Rico to leave behind recipes from Rome and co. for the people of the Caribbean. UPDATE: Apparently a bunch of people fled Corsica because of political and economic changes in Europe during the mid-19th century. You’re welcome for that history lesson you didn’t expect. Anyway, so this is basically like a lasagna but instead of pasta, sub for plantains because obviously.
Now, for the obvious choices you have to munch on during your stay on the Isla del Encanto. I’m actually not even going to write a cool description because you’ve probably had these already and they are pretty quintessential (wow, I’ve never used that word before. Is that a cliche?) part of Puerto Rican culture so if you don’t know about them that’s your fault and you need to do some soul-searching. Or, I guess a Google search, whichever flips your flapjack. So here are some obvious ways how to eat like a local in Puerto Rico.
Arroz con Gandules
Wow, I honestly don’t know how I make it through writing about scrumptious food while hungry. When will I ever learn my lesson? I hope you enjoyed looking at all the yummy food I had while you’re having leftovers (only partially joking). Maybe you should book a ticket to Puerto Rico so you can help recovery efforts after the hurricane and bonus, eat some delish food.
Other bonus. Want to help Puerto Rico but can’t seem to find the time or money to fly to the island to roll out your sleeves and toss paper towels out to locals? (Shoot, did I cross a political line?) Well PBS recently wrote an article about how to still help Puerto Rico out. As of today, they have been about 70 days without electricity. Hospitals are relying on generators, grocery stores are limited and still, some are without water. Almost one thousand people remain in shelters around the island. There are ways to help by volunteering, donating funds or sending needed materials. Check out these links below for some more information.
Now, time to go make some comida.
Fast facts on the current situation: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/its-been-10-weeks-since-hurricane-maria-hit-puerto-rico-heres-where-recovery-stands