Patacones: A Panamanian Delight
“Espere! Espere!” voices holler from the panameños and tourists, as they run to stop the fruit and vegetable truck as it speeds down the gravel road in Santa Catalina, Panama. As the truck comes to a halt, everyone darts out to get ripe fresh fruit and vegetables to cook with or snack on for the day.
Among other fruits and vegetables, plantains stick out and are essential in making the authentic Latin American cuisine, patacones. These are more commonly known as twice fried plantains. If you aren’t fortunate enough to catch the vegetable man, you can often pay some Panamanian children to monkey up a tree and retrieve fresh, organic fruit.
How to make Patacones:
1. To begin making patacones, start by gathering the simple ingredients: plantains, vegetable oil or a healthier organic coconut oil to fry your plantains in. A dash of salt is needed for flavoring.
2. Once you have gathered the ingredients, start by peeling your plantains. Add some Panamanian music to increase the experience of cooking patacones.
3. Place a pot with your choice of oil (enough to submerge your plantains) on medium heat.
4. Cut plantains into one inch chunks and place into the hot cooking oil.
5. Cook and stir plantains until golden and puffy. Remove and place on a paper towel to cool.
6. After the plantains cool, use a wooden smasher, glass bottle, or even a spoon to begin smashing your soon–to–be patacones until they are flat. Note: insides will look raw.
7. Return the once fried plantains into the hot oil and fry once more until they begin to turn golden brown.
8. Place patacones onto a paper towel, pat to remove excess grease on patacones. Season with salt, and eat.
This dish you have now completed is a common dish in Latin America. It became a popular favorite because the abundance of plantains in Panama. Unlike the banana, plantains are not as sweet and provide a salty snack or a replacement for potatoes. When traveling through any part of Panama, you will find patacones in every diner that serves typical food. Now you can bring that Panamanian favorite to your house, because you have successfully cooked an authentic Panameño side dish to share and enjoy with your friends and family.
Shelby Lewis is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program
Photo courtesy and copyright Shelby Lewis