Here in Puerto Rico, you can find a diverse range of cuisine; but it is the islands traditional food that you have to try when you are here. The locals call it ‘comida criolla’, which is a blend of Spanish, Taíno, African and American influence. Puerto Rican food uses the vast range of fresh produce from the land and the sea. No matter where you venture when you are here, you will find a place offering mouth watering Puerto Rican food; from the roadside vendors, outside cafeterias and upscale restaurants.
So what can you expect to see on a traditional Puerto Rican menu?
A lot of food here in Puerto Rico uses Sofrito (a blend of peppers, onions, garlic, and coriander) as a base. Stews, soups, rice and beans will use sofrito to add flavor. Adobo is another blend of spices that is used as a rub on meats before cooking.
Empanadillas are pastries that are filled with meat, fish, or cheese that are usually deep fried
Rellenos de papa are mashed potato balls that are stuffed with meat and then fried
Alcapurrias are made from yucca and will be stuffed with either meat or seafood filling and are deep fried.
Tapas, the traditional Spanish appetizers that are often ordered as several separate dishes in place of a main course are also popular here in Puerto Rico
Fried squid and calamari
On most menus you will see a selection of side dishes:
‘Arroz con habichuelas’ is the famous Puerto Rican ‘Rice & Beans’ to you and me. If you are planning on having a traditional meal, this is a must. Usually they will be served separately with the beans served in a separate dish.
‘Arroz con gandures’ is rice with pigeon peas.
Mofongo is mashed plantain or yucca seasoned with garlic. (Note, this is usually cooked with pork, so if you are vegetarian, I would check with the waiters).
Tostones are another staple side dish and are made from fried plantain slices.
Amarillos are ripe plantains (and are sweeter) and are usually served boiled or fried.
Some of the more traditional main course dishes are:
Mofongo relleno can either be a chicken or seafood mixture served inside a mofongo crust.
Asopao is a rich stew that will include rice and either chicken, fish or shell fish.
Lechón is pork that has been slow roasted and is deliciously, I might add. You will probably find the best tasting lechón at the many roadside stands throughout the island and especially inland, that also sell barbecued chicken.
Pasteles (served more around Christmas) are made from a paste of mashed plantain or yucca that are filled with seasoned meat. They are cooked by wrapping in green banana leaves and then boiled.
The more traditional desserts are:
Flan a custard-like dessert.
Tembleque is a pudding made from a coconut.
Tres Leches is a very moist cake.
The above is just an idea of the food that you can try when you are here in Puerto Rico. Like the saying goes ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’. If you come to Puerto Rico, it would be a real shame, if you did not try the local food.