I need a plantain primer
I'm going to a Cuban restaurant for the first time, and I've looked at the menu, and there seems to be a lot of dishes that are based on plantains...and while I've looked up the definitions, I'm still confused.
Tostones, Maduros, Mofongo
How are they different from each other, how do they taste (sweet, not sweet...crisp, not crisp)...what do you like, what should we try?
We'll be ordering other things but I'd really like to understand the plantains.
I am by no means a latin american food expert but living in south Florida for a few years gave me some exposure to plantains in their various forms. Plantains are used throughout Latin America in so many different ways that people from other countries may have different opinions.
Here is my take on your question . . . .
Tostones - fried green plantains - the greener the plantain the less sweet, so these are not as sweet. They are fried but I find that any fried plantain is never really "crisp" in the sense of a fried potato. So they have a browned "crisp" outside but are still soft on the inside.
Maduros - fried ripe plantains - these are usually very ripe - think black mushy banana looking - so they are sweeter. Again, while they are fried the only have a crispy exterior and an even mushier inside. And sweet in the sense that sweet potatoes are sweet. They can cross that sweet/savory line pretty easily in taste (my opinion).
Mofongo - much more savory tasting, these are generally fried plantains that are then mixed with spices/garlic etc. Being that they are fried and then mixed with other ingredients, they are soft (think mashed potatoes consistency).
How crisp any of these preparations will be depends a lot on how thick they slide the plantains too and different cultures (and families) like them different thicknesses.
Hope that helps.
Tostones: Slices of plantain fried, smashed, and fried again
Maduros: Ripe plantains, generally mildly sweeter than green, and easier to peel
Mofongo: Mashed plantains over a stew-type dish.
When I lived in Ecuador, green plantains were grated to use as a thickener, or a kind of dumpling in soups.
We had tostones, which there were referred to as patacones.
Hope that helps!