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Thursday, September 18, 2014

P for Panama ~ Patacones / Patacón / Tostones

Event: BM #44, Around the World (A - Z Series)  
Choice of Country: The Republic of Panama  
Capital City: Panama City 
Official Language: Spanish

Panama history:
Panama is the southernmost country of Central America and the whole of North America. It was inhabited by several indigenous tribes before becoming a Spanish settlement during 16th century. It broke with Spain in 1821 and became a part of the Republic of Gran Colombia, along with Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela. When Gran Colombia dissolved in 1831, Panama and Nueva Granada remained joined. Nueva Granada later became the Republic of Colombia. With the backing of the United States, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, allowing the Panama Canal to be built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. The total transfer of the Canal from the United States to Panama culminated on 31 December 1999.   

Panama cuisine:
Panamanian cuisine is a unique mix of African, Spanish, and Native American techniques, dishes, and ingredients, reflecting its diverse population. Since Panama is a land bridge between two continents, it has a large variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs that are used in native cooking. Panamanian foods are mildly flavored and the commonly used ingredients are maize, rice, wheat flour, plantains, yuca, beef, chicken, pork and seafood.

I went with one of the popular side dishes of the region, patacones. Patacones / Tostones are twice fried, crisp green plantain slices. In fact, these starters/side dish are popular in many of the Latin countries and the Caribbean and go by different names. In Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and in most of Venezuela, they are known by the name tostones. The word tostones comes from the Spanish verb 'tostar' meaning "to toast". They are known as patacón / patacones in Colombia, Costarica, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and in some parts of Venezuela, where they are served with a garlic sauce. These are also known as fritos verdes (in Dominican Republic), banan peze (in Haiti) and plantain crisps (in West Africa). (Source:Wiki)
Tostones is pronounced as thos-tho-nes ('Tho' like in a Indian girl's name Toral and 'nes' as in nest).  Patacones is pronounced as pa-tha-co-nes (Say 'pa' as in the word pat and 'tha' like in Indian name 'Tanu' ).

Actually I guess this post should be divided into what you should and should not do while trying patacones. I was well prepared or so I thought when I tried these patacones for the first time. You see, I have eaten and prepared my share of plantain chips in life. This recipe is so simple and besides I had gone through some online videos on how to prepare these addictive chips. I thought it was impossible to go wrong but my first trial burst my bubble and it was a super flop experiment. Two things failed me - peeling the plantains and using the wrong gadgets to press the fried plantains.
The recipe is simple and you need unripe, green plantains, oil to fry and salt.
The first time I peeled the plantains using a peeler removing only the thick superficial layer - the way I do when doing Indian style plantain dishes. You still can see the light green skin.
And ended up with these after the first time frying. When I tried to flatten them, the outer darker layer was breaking apart from the yellow portion. (Not at all good for this recipe and ended up making Indian style curry.)
During this marathon besides learning how to make these crispy, yummy patacones, I also got to learn an easy, Latino way to peel the plantains which by the way is important for this dish.
* Take an unripe plantain and cut off the edges. Make a slit running the knife along the seams and peel away the skin with your hand. It peels off easily. Or if using a peeler, do it twice to reach the cream colored skin of the plantain.
* Cut the plantain into about 1 inch pieces. How big the patacones are depends upon the size of the cut plantains. Or they can be cut lengthwise into two slices.
* Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan. Drop the plantain pieces and fry them on low medium heat for about 3 - 4 minutes. They would be cooked to some extent and would have turned yellow in color.
* Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels.
* Usually a gadget named tostonera is used to flatten the fried plantain slices. In my first attempt, I tried the bottom of a heavy pan, a food can and even a small sized pounder and all failed. Then I realized that the athirasam press I had is similar to what the Latinos are using to flatten the fried plantain pieces. One can use even a roti press or any kitchen utensil with a flat surface.
* Place a fried piece of plantain on the bottom disc of the gadget and place the upper piece over it.

* Apply pressure using the handle of the upper wooden piece and flatten the plantain piece.

* Drop the flattened pieces of plantain into the hot oil and fry again on medium flame until they turn golden brown.
* Drain them on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately. 



Varada's Kitchen said...

They look crust and crunchy. Nice snack!

Vimitha Durai said...

Looks so yummy

Usha said...

I never cooked plantains and will remember these tips when I cook them

Srivalli said...

Ah you seem to have enjoyed making this Suma, though sad that it failed the first time..as you must have read, this was a super hit with my kids..I had used a small karori and it worked well for pressing it down. This is indeed such an additive snack!

Priya Suresh said...

Looks dangerously addictive, totally fallen for this crispy plaintains.

vaishali sabnani said...

I kept smiling while going through the post Suma..you know what...we make Aaloo Took ..exactly like these plantains and imagine a same dish same style but with plantain...comes super crunchy and we love these, will try the plantain version.:)

Suma Gandlur said...

Valli, with that katori, you must have had a good workout for your arms. :) BTW I am still trying to imagine how you flattened those plantain pieces with a katori without breaking them. :)

Unknown said...

Good that you mention how to pronounce those names :) It really hard to pronounce some name .. patacones looks super tempting dear , such an easy to make and yummy dish with plantain !!

The Pumpkin Farm said...

i also made this...yours looks so good

Harini R said...

Sounds like an addictive snack! Double fried = sinful and yumm :)

Gayathri Kumar said...

Thank you so much for explaining in detail Suma. I have seen this in a TV channel and was tempted to try. Your post will be very helpful while I try..

Pavani said...

Very well explained Suma. Tostones are made in almost all of the Latin American/ South American countries.
Btw, did you use the regular green plantains we get in Indian stores here (but they are much smaller) or the plantains from American grocery?

Chef Mireille said...

very well explained for the novice. This is one of my faves and is something I eat and make often. Also you can use the flat side of a cleaver to flatten the tostones.

Padmajha said...

I pronouced the name wrongly till I read how it was supposed to be called! And this is a great snack Suma. Thanks for the tips. I will be making it this weekend. I have a lone plantain that need to be used up :)

Archana said...

Yum yum yum Suma another great snack.