In this Mofongo recipe, a Puerto Rican staple, green plantains are fried and mashed with crispy pork rinds and a garlicky and citrusy mojo sauce. The mofongo is then served with some seriously delicious and easy Mojo Shrimp to complete the meal.
Mashed plantains are a very common side dish throughout the Caribbean and parts of West Africa. In some countries, such as Cuba, a combination of green and yellow plantains are boiled instead of fried and the dish is called Fufú de Plátano, most likely a descendant of the West African fufu, made from yams or various mashed starches and served with flavourful broths or soups.
In Puerto Rico, Mofongo is most commonly made with chicharrones (crispy fried pork belly with the skin on). Not only does it add a significant amount of flavour to the mofongo, but it also adds a lot of crispy crunch, which plays nicely against the soft, mashed plantains. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any pork belly, so I cheated and used the unflavoured EPIC brand pork rinds instead.
If I did have pork belly, I would probably roast it in the oven, as I do in this recipe, before slicing it into small pieces and mixing it into the mofongo. It gets super crispy and delicious without any additional oil. You can also use fried bacon, but again, I didn’t have any of that either. #quarantine
In addition to the chicharrones, garlic is a very common ingredient. Sometimes, it’s added on its own in the form of a garlic paste. Personally, I like to add garlic in the form of a Mojo sauce, made by gently heating it the garlic with some fresh citrus juice, herbs and spices in extra virgin olive oil. Not only does the Mojo add a significant pop of flavour to the mofongo, the liquid helps moisten the plantains, which can be quite dry otherwise.
The added benefit of making a mojo sauce is that you can use it to flavour some sautéed shrimp, as I do here. If you don’t eat shellfish, you can substitute thinly-sliced boneless chicken breast, or even your favourite vegetables, like zucchini, peppers, and onions, for a vegetarian version. Either way, the mojo sauce is amazing and will elevate just about everything it touches.
What You Need to Make Mofongo
Mofongo is specifically made with unripened green plantains. They’re starchier and not as sweet as yellow or brown, ripened plantains, which is what you want in this particular dish. Using sweet plantains will result in a different flavour and texture, which may not necessarily be a bad thing.
As mentioned, mofongo is almost always flavoured with garlic. I like to make an easy mojo sauce but if you want to just add finely chopped garlic, that can work too. If so, I recommend also adding a bit of chicken or vegetable stock to the mashed plantains to keep them from getting too dry.
If you can’t get pork belly with skin on to fry or roast, then you can use fried bacon. If you don’t eat pork, you can omit this altogether. You won’t get the same texture or flavour, but it will still be tasty.
In Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean, a wooden mortar and pestle, called a pilón, is used to mash the fried plantain. Unlike other mortar and pestles, a pilón is much narrower and taller, which makes mashing the plantains much, much easier. Since I left my pilón in Miami before returning to Toronto, I had to use my regular mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a pilón or mortar and pestle, you can add the fried plantains to a pot or heavy bowl and mash them with a potato masher.
A Round Mold:
Mofongo is commonly shaped in a round mold like a small bowl, before being plated. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it does make for an interesting presentation.
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup lime juice or lemon juice
- 7 cloves garlic finely chopped, around ¼
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- 3 green plantains peeled and cut on a bias into 1.5” slices
- 1 cup pork rinds I used EPIC brand
- ¼ cup mojo sauce
- ½ jalapeño finely chopped
- Kosher salt to taste
- ½ pound peeled and deveined shrimp
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ cup mojo sauce
- Add all of the ingredients to a small saucepan and stir to combine. Set the pan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is just golden and soft, around 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt as desired. Remove from heat and set aside. Leftovers can be stored in a sealed jar and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
- Preheat the coconut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it reaches 350F. Carefully add the plantains and cook until golden brown, around 5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden brown, another 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or tray.
- Working in batches, add the fried plantains to the pilón and mash until almost completely smooth. Add the pork rinds and mojo sauce and continue to mash until combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust with mojo sauce as desired.
- Rub the inside of a small bowl with a small amount of oil to prevent sticking and spoon the mofongo into it. Using the back of a spoon, press the mixture down so that it takes the shape of the bowl. Flip the bowl upside down onto serving platter and lift to release the mofongo. Cover with foil to keep warm and set aside momentarily.
- In a bowl, combine the shrimp, salt, pepper and paprika and toss to coat.
- Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the oil used to cook the plantains. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the shrimp in a single layer. Cook until the shrimp turn slightly pink, around 2 minutes. Flip and cook the second side until the shrimp are completely pink and slightly firm, around 2 minutes. Add the mojo sauce, jalapeño and cook, tossing to coat, for 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt as desired.
- Spoon the mojo shrimp overtop of the mofongo and serve immediately.