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May 25, 2007 07:49 PM

Plantains to cook

Does anyone know where I can buy plantains or "cooking bananas" in Los Angeles? I love them at restaurants and would like to try and make them myself. Thanks for your ideas and/or recommendations.

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    1. Most Latino markets will carry them. But I just saw Trader Joe's refrigerated veggie section with a new product: peeled and vacuum-packed plantains, or macho... Might be worth a try if everything else fails...

      2 Replies
      1. re: bulavinaka

        They are almost always available at Whole Foods and I do see them at the Ralphs in my neighborhood (Hollywood). Jons (with the font that looks a little too much like Vons') will usually have a good range of ripeness available. They take forever to ripen and are not at all good if you try to cook them when they are green. Look for the ones that have blackish spots on them.

        1. re: brusselsprouts

          You can cook them when they're green. In fact, you can cook them at any stage of ripeness. When they're green, you mash them and make deep-fried patacones (a Colombian specialty). But if you want them sweet, then you need to wait until they're totally black.

      2. in the People's Republic of Pasadena, they're all but unavoidable. Even Vons and Ralphs have'em. I usually get mine from Farm Fresh or Food 4 Less just because they're both cheaper and fresher (more frequent turnover).

        Yeah, I saw those peeled guys in Trader Joe's this evening, and wondered, "Who the hell needs his plantains peeled?" Like it's really hard to do? This is taking "convenience" waaaayyy beyond reason...

        7 Replies
        1. re: Will Owen

          I think that about most TJ packaged ready to cook veggies frankly, they seem a bit pricey for what you get. I like many of their cheese price wise and many other products (I still try not to buy the demi pain super crusty rustica because it is simply desert and that grapefruit Italian soda that is not high fructose corn syrup based, oh yum for both).

          And if you are really lazy about plantains, the frozen ready to saute types you see are not that bad either and much, much cheaper, like $1 a package, good enough for 3-4 servings.

          1. re: MaryT

            Thanks for reminding me: King Ranch in Monrovia has frozen tostones that look awfully good. They aren't that challenging to make from scratch, but it is a two-part process, like properly made french fries, and sometimes ya just want breakfast like NOW.

          2. re: Will Owen

            I was thinking the same thing about TJ's plantains. But when you give it a second thought, it's pretty smart on their part. TJ's is always willing to try new things like their customers are. As plentiful as plantains are in SoCal markets, most folks never try them. This pkging puts it right in your face - it's familiar since the skin is off and it looks like the familiar and harmless banana.

            I think it's also not so much about convenience - geez, someone finally peeled it for me - but more about convenience in terms of shelf life and packaging that is handy and uniform for both TJ's and the customer. You can imagine these sitting and sitting and sitting in their natural state in their semi-pathetic produce section. There's no place for these there. They just don't turn over fast enough like most of their produce items, and would just be taking up space. But being vacuum packaged the way they are, they take up very little shelf space and in a uniform manner, like cans or bottles do. They could last for who knows how long. For the consumer, you can treat them like a vacuumed package of sausages. Toss them in a drawer in your refrigerator and pull them out when you don't feel like making a trip to Top Value or Jon's.

            I'm guessing TJ's is testing the waters right now. If it doesn't work, they can use up their remaining stock by creating some new-fangled creation like frozen platanos, much like you mention below, but with some sauce packs included - maybe even Plantains Foster or mashed plantain cakes, or as part of a frozen entree of Brazilian food - who knows - you know to expect the unexpected at TJ's...

            1. re: bulavinaka

              I think you're right, and maybe folks who shop at TJ's don't notice plantains when they're shopping at Ralphs or Gelsons or wherever, or seeing them peeled next to the prepared beets or whatever, makes plantains more accessible psychologically. Recently I've been buying the TJ's premium peeled garlic which is a package of 8 small vacuum-sealed packages each containing 3 large peeled cloves. I think it costs 99 cents and honestly I think it's a better value for me than buying a head of garlic. The cloves last a long time and don't develop sprouts, so there's a lot less waste than when I buy a head of garlic. The fact that I don't have to peel it is nice but really how hard is it to smash a clove of garlic with my knife and take off the peel.

              1. re: bulavinaka

                Well, to be painfully honest here, I wrote this immediately after buying one of those microwaveable bags of mixed green and yellow beans! And it's certainly not because I don't know how to prepare pod beans for cooking...

                1. re: Will Owen

                  Just like your avatar - you're one sly fellow with a dash of debonair and a heart of gold... Their frozen veggies and those nuke-ables in the fridge section are a livesaver after a hard day...

              2. re: Will Owen

                My Colombian friends were happy to see this product in part because TJ's sources them from Colombia, but also because peeling green plaintains stains their hands. They're happy to leave the hard work to others. Can't say I blame them.

              3. Don't forget that "cooking bananas" are just green bananas. When they are very green and firm, they have a milder flavor than plantains, and a slightly softer texture, but they make a lovely masa, and a hearty dumpling for soups.

                3 Replies
                1. re: MaspethMaven

                  Plaintains are different variety of banana, some of the Mexicans stores call them "macho" bananas. The sweet dish that you get in Cuban or Jamaican restaurants is made with the ripe ones, the riper the better ( I let the skin turn all black). Then just cut in chunks and pan fry til brown on each side. Nice with a bit of allspice powder. Different, sweeter and yummier than the smashed salty fried green ones.

                  If I'm trying to limit the fat grams, I dice and nuke the plaintains with oatmeal.

                  I never liked "boiled green bananas" which we had growing up. Those were the regular bananas and they got really slimy. Yuck.

                  1. re: mlgb

                    I'm aware of the types, so thanks. Your response will def. help others. I don't ever recall having a slimy boiled green banana... was it just water that it was boiled in?

                    The differences between maduros and verdes are all in the eye of the chowhound. I for one can't stand maduros.

                    1. re: MaspethMaven

                      Yes , just boiled in a bit of water. Not nice at all!

                2. When I want to buy plantains, I go to Jon's Markets. There are a number of them around town -- depending on your neighborhood, Vallarta Markets might be more convenient. Both Vallarta and Jon's cater to a more ethnic clientele, and in particular, the markets that are in the Hollywood/Koreatown/Midtown area carry a lot of products for Central American/Caribbean patrons.