Get In Touch With Your Inner Fryer…

As I’m writing this first post I’m coming down from a fabulous food high.  I visited a new restaurant tonight with some friends that specializes in traditional Puerto Rican cuisine.  Now, if you arent familiar with a lot of the food of this genre, most things are submerged in hot oil til brown, crispy, and succulent.  A cooking technique that, when done correctly, yields some of the best food out there.  Tonight was no exception.  I ordered the Mofongo with fried pork medallions.  Mafungo traditionally is made with fried green plantains that are then smashed together with garlic, spices, broth and most likely some tiny pieces of crispy fried pork fat for good measure.  It is usually served with pieces of fried meat or sauteed shrimp.  Can you say heaven??

The first time I had this dish was at a hole in the wall spanish dive a few blocks away from Yankee Stadium in New York City.  My fiance had found the place when he went to a game with a friend, and when my family took a bus trip to go to a game the following year, we made it a point to stop.  The restaurant served cafeteria style but also had a few items they made in back like the mofongo.  When we walked in I have to say we were skeptical.  There were plastic chairs, styrofoam cups, and a buzzer that you had to hit to unlock the bathroom door.  However, by the time we left, the tables where we sat were riddled with empty plates and we were swearing our allegiance to the Adobo gods…

The restaurant tonight had real china, a bathroom without an outside lock, and one of the best Mojito’s I’ve ever had.  It is my belief that with a rich food experience like this, a cold acidic beverage with just the right amount of kick from the rum and a wonderful earthiness from the mint is an absolute necessity.  It cuts through the strong flavors of garlic and salt and clears your pallet for that next wonderful bite.  To start we had one of the specials of the evening which was an empanada sampler with 3 different kinds of meat.  They were crispy little half moons of thin fried dough filled with savory meat and spices.  They were not at all greasy but had a satisfying crunch and a buttery finish on your tongue.  The waitress then brought us over salads, which was lovely, but totally unecessary when I had the anticipation of mofongo just on the horizon.  But the lettuce was fresh and crisp and more importantly cold and properly dressed with a tangy vinagrette that did not drown the leaves.

When the main event came to the table, I knew immediately that I was not going to be disappointed.  The smell of garlic and browned meat immediately saturated the air.  The mofongo was placed on the dish in a cyllindrical shape, about 2 inches high and 3 inches wide, next to scattered pieces of tender fried pork and lightly cooked onions.  Over the top of the mofongo was what they called garlic sauce.  The sauce basically consisted of fresh minced garlic mixed with some oil and spices.  It soaked into the crevices of the mashed plantain and made the dish moist and aromatic.  One bite and I was hooked…it only took me a few more forkfulls to find the savory, fatty, and incredibly tender pulled pork shoulder that was stuffed inside the heart of the mofongo tower.  Utter bliss and complete harmony in a dish.  There were no frills or fancy garnishes just the food and the knowledge that it could stand alone and shine.

As we sat, ate, and chatted for a few hours enjoying our food and each other, the night grew dark outside and we decided it was time to go.  I cant wait to go back and try some of the other items that this small establishment has to offer…maybe next time I’ll sample the cuban sandwich or the Relleno de Papa!!

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Tata’s Carribean Cuisine

104 Quinnipiac Street
Wallingford, CT 06492

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