How do you Cook Plantains? If you don't know what plantains are, or what to do with them, check this out, and try these amazing plantain recipes!
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We may joke about how plantains make us stupid, but the reality is that we absolutely love our plantains, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a Dominican who doesn't love them -- Cubans and Puerto Ricans too!
Are bananas and plantains cooked the same way?
Plantains and bananas are related, but it's best not to confuse the two: They are cooked differently. We give you more information about the difference between them here. If you want to see some ways to cook bananas (which we call "guineos"), check here.
How to peel plantains (green and yellow)
Peeling ripe plantains is almost as easy as peeling a banana, though you'll need a knife. Peeling an unripe (green) plantain is more complicated. The way most Dominican home cooks peel plantains is a result of practice, and having mom criticizing their technique until they get it almost as good as "mami". Or maybe it's just me. I give you here the expert technique, and the foolproof one, perfect if you're boiling the plantains, or making tostones.
How to cook
There are many ways to cook plantains, and these are our reader's favorites. Each one is worth writing books about, but let's keep it short...
If Dominicans were to choose a national dish, this dish of boiled, mashed plantains would be one of the strongest contenders. We love our mangú. The very thought of the smooth mash, topped with soft red onions, sends chills down our spine. Mangú is the traditional breakfast dish in the Dominican Republic.
Nowadays mangú is reserved for weekends and special days, on account of being a bit too heavy on the organism of modern urbanites, who spend their days sitting in front of a computer---as opposed to plowing the fields like we used to.
If we had to find a word to define this dish I'd go with "umami". There are many strong flavors competing here (plantains, garlic, pork cracklings), but somehow they all work it out amongst themselves to play a harmonious symphony of flavors in this fried plantain concoction.
This is a dish that originated in neighboring Puerto Rico -there is a Dominican mofongo- but Dominicans have enjoyed it for so long that it has now become an adopted dish of our cuisine.
Tostones are not exclusively Dominican. These fried plantain "chips" are very popular in both Puerto Rico and Cuba too---not surprisingly, we share a lot of the same dishes and ingredients. Dominicans love our tostones to the point that they are almost always offered as an option where traditionally french fries are served. Yeah, there's no way to resist some crispy fried plantains sprinkled with salt.
We once asked our Facebook followers to pick between tostones and Fritos Maduros, as expected, these fried maduro slices put up quite a fight. They are that popular with Dominicans---Puerto Ricans and Cubans too. Because hey, sweet fried stuff is great, especially if you serve it as part of your meal. Oh yeah, did I mention this is not a dessert?
Pastelón de Plátanos Maduros
Some have compared it to shepherds' pie, but no, sorry I have to say no to that. You see, we Dominican types love mixing our sweets and savories, and nowhere do we do it better than in these creamy layers of sweet, mashed, ripe, baked plantains. We stuff it in the middle with juicy minced beef and top with ever-so-abundant melted cheese. Oh boy!
This here my friends is the cure for hangovers you may or may not have been waiting for. And even if, like myself, you don't partake in the imbibement of spirits, a steaming bowl of garlicky aguají is the kind of thing that lifts your spirit and cleanses your soul---it also fouls your breath. This strong-flavored plantain soup is apparently good for settling a "nervous" stomach too.
Piononos de Plátanos Maduros
I must honestly say that this is no longer a very common dish in the Dominican Republic, where it once was. It may be because the original one was fried, which probably doesn't make it appetizing for modern Dominicans. I am hoping to change that by adapting the traditional recipe to modern sensibilities: These piononos are baked, and they are every bit as good --if not more-- than the traditional ones. No need to thank me.
Plátanos al Caldero
Did I mention how much we love mixing our sweets and savory? Yes? Fried sweet plantain, Batman! Well, it bears repeating: We absolutely do, and this dish here, this combination of spices, caramelized brown sugar, and rum, in soft, melt-in-your-mouth ripe plantains is the stuff of dreams for us. If you ever wondered "what can I do with a plantain that's gone black?", this is your answer from the heavens.
I guess I don't have to mention this caramelized plantain dish is not a dessert.
Pasteles en Hoja de Platano
Christmas in the Dominican Republic is not the same without this tamal-like delight. It has to be said that there is a whole cottage industry dedicated to making Pasteles en Hoja (and other party foods), so most people do not make them at home on account of how time-consuming they are to make. But if you don't have a trusted doña to buy them from, roll up your sleeve and get going. The result is completely worth the trouble.
Ok, so are ripe plantains ever served as dessert? I am glad you asked because there is this one plantain dessert... Mala Rabia is one in our list of bizarre Dominican food names: it means "bad rage", so one would expect a strongly-flavored, perhaps fiercely spicy dish, but this isn't. It's actually a mild dessert that combines sweet potatoes, ripe plantains, and guava served in a light syrup. Platano maduro at its best, And it's totally worth trying.
Any more ways to cook plátanos?
We hope we've already given you an idea of how to cook plantains, and how versatile they are. But wait, there's more! We have many more recipes where plantains feature as the main, or an important ingredient.
Whether you prefer them ripe or green, we have something for you. And if you want to see more, check these out.