Saturday, July 9, 2011

The plantain

The humble plantain is known as a platano here in the Dominican Republic and is one of the staple foods. It sells at between 4 and 12 pesos depending on the size and the season - that is between 6 and 15 pence for one. They are usually sold green, but can also be used when they are ripe.

Once you have your plantain the first thing you have to do is to peel it which as not as easy as it sounds. You have to put cooking oil on your hands otherwise they turn black with some residue which is on the outside of the banana. Then you cut off the top and bottom and using a blunt knife, score down from top to bottom whilst at the same time sliding the knife under the skin. Repeat this around three times and then it is easy to just peel the skin off. It sounds easy, but even after 10 years I still end up gouging lumps out of my plantains.

One of the main ways of eating plantains is mashed. It is called mangu and we eat it most days at midday with fried salami, fried onions and fried eggs. For those who eat breakfast, it is the standard breakfast here. I mash my plantains with butter and milk, but they are usually just mashed with their cooking water.

A variation of mangu is called mofongo and in this instance the plantains are mashed with garlic and bacon. For some reason it is served in a big wooden egg cup. Mofongo is usually eaten with stewed beef or chicken, and it is delicious.

If you ask for it in a restaurant be careful not to confuse it with mondongo as that is tripe.

Another use for plantains is in a dish called pastellon which is delicious.

For this you use the ripe platanos, i.e. when they are yellow, and it is basically like a lasagne but without the cheese sauce and using platanos in place of the lasagne. Layers of tomato and minced beef, layers of cheese and layers of mashed plantains.

And finally tostones which are I suppose the Dominican equivalent of french fries or chips. These are fried plantain chips and are eaten usually with fried chicken or fried fish or fried chops. In fact with anything.

So many uses for one little banana. I must admit I was not particularly keen on plantains at first but now I am as addicted to them as Dominicans are.

In fact if people feel you have adapted well to this country they say you are aplatanado - like a plantain I suppose!


  1. First off- I must start by saying I love your blog! I spent two months in the Dominican back in '07 volunteering with a group called AMIGOS. ( I lived with a host family in a town called Hato Nuevo (around San Juan somewhere) I miss it so badly and your blog leaves me with such nostalgia! I especially love your food posts. I would do anything to get limoncillos here in the states!!!

  2. I am so glad you enjoy it Dragonfly. Come back soon, the limoncillos will be ready in a few months - but first we have the mangoes!