In our quest to highlight the amazing dishes our students enjoy while studying abroad, this time we’re featuring a mainstay of the cuisine of Costa Rica, plantains. On all AIFS Customized, Faculty-Led programs to San José, students live in homestays with local familias ticas including two meals per day allowing them to enjoy the best local tropical fruits, meats, fish and vegetables turned into delicious homemade dishes.
(Side note: A tico or tica is the colloquial term used by Costa Ricans referring to their nationality.)
The plantain is a larger and starchier version of the banana and a staple in Costa Rican households. It is enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert in its various forms. Plantains are used in various stages of ripeness and served sweet or savory. Patacones, plátanitos tostados, and the tico favorite, plátanos maduros are indispensable on every mamá tica’s table. The AIFS Resident Director in San José, Karla Carballo, enjoys showing students how to make these traditional dishes in cooking classes and has shared her Tía Carmen’s recipe for patacones. We’re also including recipes for plátanos maduros and plátanitos tostados. We hope that you are inspired enough to find some plantains at a local market and make them yourself or endeavor to plan a Customized, Faculty-Led program to Costa Rica where you and your students can enjoy the plantains in country. ¡Buen provecho!
Plantains Three Ways:
Patacones (Recipe courtesy of Tía Carmen)
These fried plantains are a savory accompaniment to meat or fish dishes. Ticos eat them for lunch or dinner as a side dish for lunch or dinner.
6 large, unripe green plantains
Oil for frying (around ½ cup)
- Take several large, green (unripe) plantains (around 6-8 inches long) and cut off the ends. Do not peel. Slice each plantain into three or four pieces, around 2-3 inches thick each.
- In a saucepan, boil water and then simmer the green plantain (with peel) for 10-15 minutes. Remove the plantains, peel and dry with paper towel.
- Heat up oil in a pan. Place the thick slices and fry until each side is golden brown. Remove from the frying pan.
- Gently smash each plantain chunk with a bottle or mallet. Re-fry in the pan with oil and a little butter until they are golden brown. Add a touch of salt and accompany them with frijolitos molidos, guacamole, salsa, ceviche etc.
These sweet plantains are a nice contrast to a savory meat or fish dish. They can also be served for dessert.
6 very ripe plantains (skin should be black)
1 ¾ cup of brown sugar (or you can substitute sugar for honey)
1 ¾ cup of butter
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
- Cut ends off and peel the plantains. Cut into 1-inch slices.
- In a large frying pan, heat up the butter on medium heat and slowly cook the plantains until they turn golden brown on both sides.
- On medium-low heat, add the 1 ¼ cup of the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to the pan plus the juice of ½ lemon or lime. Combine and stir slowly.
- Add 1 cup of water and the remaining ½ cup of brown sugar. Turn down to low and let simmer until the sugar is caramelized. Serve warm.
These plantain chips are great alone as a snack, for dipping with ceviche or salsa or accompanying a meat or fish dish.
3-4 large unripe, green plantains
Oil for frying
Salt to taste
- Peel the plantains and slice into ½ inch pieces.
- Heat the oil in a deep fryer or 2-3 cups of oil in a large Dutch oven to 375º F.
- Fry plantain slices in batches. Work quickly and remove as they turn golden brown on each side. Salt to taste.
(Baking alternative: In a large bowl, coat the chips lightly in oil and salt. Distribute evenly on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown on both sides.)