Nov 05 2012 November 5, 2012

Mofongos

Mofongo de Camarones

5757 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood

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We visited Mofongos Sunday @ 1 pm
Dish we will try to cook – Mofongo de Camarones (shrimp), $14.75

Restaurant Visit

Yes, the restaurant is named Mofongos and we are cooking a mofongo recipe. You’re probably asking yourself, “what exactly is a mofongo?” Well, it’s a Puerto Rican dish made from smashed green plantains and then stuffed with a variety of fillings. Options at Mofongos include: chicken, beef, pork, or seafood. We decided to go with shrimp because the waiter said the shrimp was the best combination of flavors with the plantains. We also ordered the de todo un poco platter from the appetizer menu so we could sample a variety of their Puerto Rican cuisine options. Other sections on the menu included sandwiches, salads, soups and dinner specials of chicken, beef, pork or seafood.

The sample platter included one pork filled banana tamale, beef filled banana fritter, beef filled empanada, chicken filled empanada and four meat filled potato circles. Through this one platter alone, we learned that Puerto Ricans really love meat. And Bananas. And fried food. We enjoyed everything on the plate except the pork filled banana tamale, something about the banana tamale was too strange of a flavor for out taste buds to enjoy. It wasn’t the pork filling but the outer banana tamale itself. Not even hot sauce could make it work for Romeo. Our favorite from the sampling was the meat filled potato circles. They were similar to a corn dog, except potatoes instead of a flour batter and ground meat instead of a hot dog. So, only maybe, kind of, just like it.

The highlight of our lunch was definitely the mofongo. Garlicky is the one word that best described the dish, almost on the verge of being spicy, but not. Basically, the mofngo was made from fried plantains being smashed together with pork rinds and then shaped to make a bowl, like a bread bowl. Then the shrimp and a tomato garlic sauce was poured inside. The dish was served inside an actual bowl because you can’t eat the mofongo without breaking its bowl shape. Two tostones, which are fried, flattened green plantains, were served as a side with the mofongo. We loved the course salt that was sprinkled onto the tostones.

The servers at Mofongos were super welcoming to us. They were eager to explain about all the different dishes on the menu and offer suggestions since this was our first endeavor into Puerto Rican cuisine. A flow of people were constantly coming in and out as we dined and we noticed that many people who had dined in, also left with several containers of take out. Our server told us it was common for patrons to take home dishes home since most of them drive from all over because there are only three Puerto Rican restaurants in all of LA and Orange counties. Mofongos has the reputation of being the best and while we haven’t tried the other two, we loved our lunch and upon leaving, were eager to attempt a recreation at home. If you live in North Hollywood, Mofongos also offers delivery. For the rest of us, our options are to smash some plantains at home or venture to the north side when the craving for Puerto Rican food strikes.

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Shopping

(prices reflect the cost of the package, not the portion we used.) The rest of the ingredients we already had in the kitchen.

El Camaguey
Spanish Onion $.89
Cilantro $.44
Sal de Ajo (Garlic Salt) $1.69
Red Pepper $.59
Plantains $2.04

Santa Monica Seafood
Shrimp, 1.085lb. $13.01

Vons
Pork Rinds $2.00
Tomatoes $2.00
Onion $1.00

Our mofongo recipe looks more complicated than it actually is. While there are several components to the dish, they were all fairly simple and not too time consuming. Simply chopping all the ingredients for the sofrito took the longest amount of time. Well, that and driving to a specialty grocery store to pick up a few of the ingredients like plantains. Pork rinds can be found just about anywhere, including gas station convenience stores.

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Ingredients for the sofrito, all chopped and looking pretty in their bowls.

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We started the actual cooking by prepping the plantains for the mofongo bowl. In our wok, we heated oil and then fried the sliced plantains till they were browned on both sides.

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Then we took a few of the fried slices and smashed them flat using two flat surfaces. Probably the most fun step to the recipe. Once flattened, we fried them a second time till they were golden brown and crunchy.

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After removing the tostones from the wok, we generously sprinkled them with sal de ajo. Feel free to add as little or much as you prefer.

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Next, we took the remaining fried plantains and little by little, combined them in the mortar with garlic cloves and pork rinds. Depending on the size of your mortar, you may do this step in small batches until all the plantains are combined with garlic and port rinds. Don’t over mix them all together, there should be chunks of garlic still visible in the finished mixture.

The sofrito is even easier to make. We simply took all of its ingredients and combined them in a blender till smooth. Simple as that.

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In a large skillet, we heated oil and sauteed the onion for about 5 minutes. Then, we added the sofrito mixture, shrimp stock and cilantro. Once simmering, we added the shrimp and cooked for about 5 minutes more, flipping shrimp half way through. Be careful not to over cook the shrimp.

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In a large, deep bowl we used a a metal ring to help us build the walls of the mofongo shape.

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Once formed, we poured some of the sauce into the bowl and added shrimp on top. We then poured the remaining sauce on the outside of the mofongo bowl and garnished with a few olives and the tostones.

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Recipe: Mofongo de Camarones

Makes 2 servings.

Mofongo

2 1/2 unripe green plantains
½lb pork rinds (chicharones)
4 cloves garlic
Vegetable oil for frying
Salt, to taste

Fried plantains (tostones)

2 slices of plantain
Vegetable oil for frying
Garlic salt, to taste

Sofrito for shrimp

1/2 Spanish onion, chopped
2 cubanelle peppers (or 1 sweet red pepper) stemmed, seeded & chopped
1 bulb garlic, peeled
½ bunch cilantro
4 ajices dulces (optional)
2 leaves culantro (optional)
2 roma tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
Salt, to taste

Shrimp

7 large 21/25 white shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ medium white onion finely chopped
2 TBSP sofrito
½ cup shrimp stock
1 TBSP cilantro, finely chopped
1 TBSP olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Garnish

2 green Spanish olives

To make the mofongo

Cut plantains into ¾” thick slices. Heat a shallow amount of oil in a skillet until it reaches 365 degrees. Add the plantains and fry for about 3 minutes each side. Remove plantains and place the on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Next add a little oil, garlic and salt to a mortar and pestle and roughly smash. Roughly mash plantains with garlic. Add some of the chicharones and roughly mash with plantains and garlic. Add salt to taste. The overall texture should still have small chunks of garlic, plantain and chicharones.

To make the tostones

Fry the slices in oil for a few minutes. Remove, smash plantains into flat round and add back to frying to fry for a second time. Remove once golden brown, allow to drain on a plate lined with a paper towel and season with garlic salt.

To make the sofrito

Core, seed and chop both the cubanelle (or sweet red) peppers. Add the onion, peppers and garlic in a food processor or blender and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time with the motor running and process until almost smooth.

To make the shrimp

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the sofrito, shrimp stock and cilantro, then lower heat to medium low and mix. Allow to simmer for several minutes, occasionally stirring. Next, add shrimp and allow to cook until shrimp is cooked about 5 minutes. Add garnish.

To shape the mofongo

Place a 4″ metal ring in a bowl. Add the mofongo mixture inside the ring and press firmly along the ring walls using a mortar. Keep adding and shaping the mixture until you have roughly a 3/4″ thick x 1 1/4″ tall mofongo form. Carefully remove the metal ring.

Rating- We give our dish 5 out of 5 stars.

This was one of those rare times when we looked at a dish and thought it would be simple to recreate, and then it actually was. After using only a wok, blender and skillet, all the components were made and simply needed to be assembled. Even with the amount of garlic we used, we felt our mofongo didn’t have quite the overpowering effect of garlic as Mofongo’s. But other than that, our dish seemed pretty spot on.

Have any of you ventured to the valley to dine at Mofongos or eaten at either of the other two Puerto Rican cuisine restaurants in the area? If so, please let us know if you ordered the mofongo and what your impression was. How do you rate Mofongos’ version? We’d love to hear from you and we’d really love to hear about your experience in recreating this dish.