During Hispanic Heritage Month, TODAY is sharing the community’s history, pain, joy and pride. We are highlighting Hispanic trailblazers and rising voices. TODAY will be publishing personal essays, stories, videos and specials throughout the month of September and October. For more, head here.
Mofongo is a traditional Puerto Rican dish made from fried plantains smashed with pork and garlic. Its origins can be traced to fufu, the West African staple. Like fufu, mofongo is made using a similar method of mashing a starchy vegetable, then adding liquid and some type of animal fat to soften the mixture. In the Caribbean, it has been made with the vegetation available in the region. Plantains are most often used, but other starchy root vegetables native to the island utilized by the indigenous Taínos can also be used. Mofongo is commonly made by using a pilón — a wooden mortar and pestle — to smash fried green plantains with pork and garlic.
In Puerto Rico, mofongo is typically an entrée for dinner or lunch, but it can be also served as a side. At La Placita, my restaurant in Miami, we make it with green plantain, yuca or sweet plantain. For the fat and seasoning, we use pork belly confit, garlic, butter and olive oil. We feature six different toppings that can accompany the mofongo, including ropa vieja (shredded beef), jueyes (crab), carne frita (fried pork chunks), camarones al ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce), carrucho (conch) and caldo de pollo (chicken stew). The recipe featured here is for our mofongo that can be paired with your choice of protein or vegetable.
Get the recipe:
I decided to try to create a National Mofongo Day after I discovered that there wasn’t one. I felt the dish deserved its own day because it's the most iconic dish on the island of Puerto Rico. Mofongo is very much ingrained in our culture. I applied to register the day with the National Days Archive, where, as part of the application process, I answered a lengthy questionnaire to explain what mofongo is and why it should be celebrated. I chose Sept. 24 because there wasn't a major dish celebrated on that date and it happens to fall within Hispanic Heritage Month.
My hope is that National Mofongo Day will become a source of pride for the people in Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans throughout the United States. Puerto Rican culture is so incredibly strong. We're proud of our arts, culture and cuisine — especially our mofongo.