This week’s historic visit to Cuba inspired me to make Frijoles Negros Cubanos (Cuban Black Beans) and Tostones (twice fried plantain slices). Tostones are a staple of many Latin American countries, the Caribbean and West Africa. Known in many countries in Latin America as tostones, they’re also known as tachinos or chatinos in Cuba, fritos verde in the Dominican Republic, bananes pesées in Haiti, and as patacones in Colombia, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Ecuador.
Made slightly different from country to country and home to home, the basic technique remains the same. Green (unripe) plantains are peeled, sliced diagonally, or width-wise, fried and then pressed and fried again. Yes, that’s right, they are fried twice! The double frying technique is popular in many Latin American countries. Tostones are not what I would consider a health food, but they sure are tasty and nice to have every once in a while.
I grew up eating plantains almost every week. We had them boiled, fried as tostones, and also sliced thinly and fried to make plantain chips (a delicious crispy snack). I preferred them fried. Once, seeking a healthier option, my dad tried baking our tostones. They just weren’t the same. We stuck with frying them, although less often. To make tostones, the thick and raw slices of plantains are fried on each side until they are golden in color and removed and patted for excess cooking oil. Afterwards, they are flattened with a hinged wooden utensil called a tostonera (available in Latin American stores or a variety of online shops). My mom had one, but I simply use anything that has a large enough flat surface—two cutting boards or plates work well. I like to dip the flattened plantain slices in salted water before frying again (the second time) until they are crisp and golden brown. This way the edges are salted and crispy and there’s flavor in each bite. Others skip the salted water and sprinkle salt after the second frying. I sometimes do both. Tostones can also be served with garlic salt, garlic sauce, pepper sauce, a splash of fresh lime juice, and/or more. And, they make a nice appetizer or side dish.
Note that tostones are savory and different than maduros (fried sweet plantain). Maduros are also delicious and can be made the same way (minus the salt) as tostones.
Here, the “tech” is for techniques, as in culinary techniques. On at least one Tuesday of the month, I’ll be sharing culinary techniques with you on the blog. Today’s culinary technique is the double frying for making tostones; they are unique because they’re fried twice.
When possible I’ll Snapchat on Tech Tuesdays, using Snaps and wi-fi technology to send them out to you. Today I sent Snaps while making tostones. Have a peek. My Snapchat username is ptworldcitizen and my Snapcode is below. Now on to the recipe.
2 large green plantains, peeled and cut into 1 or 2-inch slices
1/4-1/2 cup or more vegetable oil
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon or more salt, to taste
lime wedges, optional
Peel the plantain: Cut the ends of each plantain. Use knife to cut through the peel the entire lenth of the plantain. Use your fingers to loosen the peel and remove. Cut the plantain into slices, about 1 to 2-inches wide. It depends on how thick you like them. I cut mine about an inch or inch and a half wide.
Fill a large skillet about a third full with oil and heat over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, fry the plantain slices until softened and golden brown, approximately 3 minutes each side.
Meanwhile, add water to a small bowl and add salt. Set aside.
Remove the plantains and drain on paper towels. Use a tostonera (plantain press) or two cutting boards or plates) to smash the plantains until flattened to less than half their thickness. Quickly dip in salted water. Fry once again, turning once, until golden brown on both sides.
Remove and use paper towels to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle with salt and serve.
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