Just in time for the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, five-time James Beard Award semifinalist Chef José Mendín, co-owner of La Placita in Miami, tells us more about this iconic dish and how he got National Mofongo Day on September 24 added to the National Day Archives.
Q: What is mofongo?
A: Mofongo is a traditional Puerto Rican dish made from fried plantains smashed with pork and garlic. It is the most iconic dish in the island of Puerto Rico. It’s a unique dish and is very much ingrained in our culture.
Q: What is the history of the dish?
A: Mofongo evolved from the African dish fufu. Like fufu, mofongo is made using a similar method — mashing a starchy vegetable, then adding liquid and some type of animal fat to soften the mixture. In the Caribbean, it was made with the vegetation that was 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.
Q: How is it commonly made?
A: Mofongo is made by using a wooden mortar to smash fried green plantains with pork and garlic. It’s mostly served as an entree for dinner or lunch but it can also be a side.
Q: How do you make the dish at your restaurant?
A: At La Placita, 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 then shape it into a ball to be served.
Q: How did you get the National Day Archives to add mofongo to its official calendar?
A: I simply submitted the application and answered their questionnaire as part of the application process. That’s it!
This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of National Culinary Review. Click here to download the issue.