Home-cooked Puerto Rican Food

collageAlmost a year ago, I sampled for the first time “New Rican” food. It was a memorable experience. Especially the Arroz Con Pollo, which is their version of Chicken Rice. This sparked off a promise of authentic Puerto Rican food. From Puerto Rico.

A year later, I was at the same place, chilling out with a homemade Coquito.

Coquito is an excellent way to unwind after a long day. It is made out of condensed milk, coconut (I think), spices and of course, Puerto Rican Rum. Yes, that is a 2-litre bottle of Puerto Rican Rum. After all, that’s their National Drink.

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It is almost like drinking an egg nog except most egg nogs don’t knock you down after 3 glasses. Cinnamon sticks usually provide a sharp contrast, but this time, despite the number of stick you see, it was muted and gave just a small hint of spice to the warm flavours. A comfort drink!

Just as we were nice and relaxed, someone served Morcillas and garlic sausage. This made us sit up.

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The Morcillas is a type of blood sausage. It is coagulated pig’s blood stuffed with rice, spiced with Pimentón, onions and salt. Some places substitute rice with bread.

The yellow fruit that looks like pineapples are actually breadfruit. Something that’s quite rare in Singapore these days.

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Starchy and soft like a new potato, it is slightly sweet and is amazing when dipped into Olive oil.

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The pork sausage was also heavenly. Crispy, salty and garlicky. It was quickly consumed with the large variety of hot sauces available. The ones we liked were the Sri Lankan Spicy Green Chilli Sauce and the Mexican Hot Sauce.

Once the appetizers were done, a whole slew of large bowls flew out of the kitchen and on to the table.

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The Garbanzos con Patitas de Cerdo or Chickpeas and Pig’s Trotter stew was very hearty. This is a very time-consuming affair that requires at least two hours of cooking to soften the chickpeas and trotters. And that does not include the pounding of the spices to make Sofrito which is the Puerto Rican version of Quarte-espice (four-spice) or our Ngor Hiong (five-spice) powder. Sofrito is the soul of the simple but hearty Puerto Rican stews.

The pickled pig’s trotters were creamy and full of gelatin and the Chickpeas gave the whole stew a grainy texture.

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The Bacalao en Salsa Criolla or Salted Cod with Creole sauce was another firm favourite. While this is more of a Dominican recipe, the salted cod along with the Plantain is a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine.

I liked this because the flavours were more subtle than your usual sardine in tomato sauce and the cod was soft yet firm (because of the salting) and it provided a strong contrast to the thick and complex stew.

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To help balance the rich stews, Guanimes (boiled corn sticks) were laid out. These are rolls of stuffed corn with the density of lead. Seriously, just one is a meal in itself. I was fortunate to share a small piece of that incredibly heavy corn stick.

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The Fricasse de Pollo was outstanding. Just as you thought that since everything had the same shade of red, it would taste the same, the Chicken stew came out and blew me away.

The secret? Chunks of beautifully salted pork. Mmmmm… bacon…

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All of this was against a background of Arroz con Tocino which is rice flavoured with either bacon or salted pork belly, although some people add cheese to it.

It is done exactly the same way as our Hainanese Chicken rice except that pork is used instead.

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To round of the meal and to cleanse the palate, Feta cheese and Guava was served. The salty Feta intensified the sour Guava so much that threatened to shut down my taste buds when I first bit into them.

After a few minutes, what is known as “palate adjustment” occurred and the Guava began to take on more sweet notes that made it almost like a quince. Finally, the Guava and Feta balanced each other out nicely.

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And finally, no dinner is complete without the full complement of home-baked goodies from the only baker I know to obtain two Makansutra Chopsticks.

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But wait, there’s more…

As we had two bottles of aged Rum, we decided to take a taste test of the Puerto Ricans at the dinner to see if they could differentiate Puerto Rican Rum and Rum from Barbados.

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They tasted as different as chalk and cheese. The Puerto Rican Rum had a deeper, almost sherry-like flavour that was intense while the Rum from Barbados was brighter and had hints of sugarcane.

Yes, they know their Rum. 😉

The dinner as you might have noticed is predominantly stews and salted meats and fish. This, as I understand it are the typical ingredients used for a meal in Puerto Rico. And while I was warned repeatedly that the menu was simple peasant food and not to have very high expectations, I believe that to truly experience a culture’s cuisine, we should eat what everyone is eating.

It was a very pleasant dinner amongst friends and relations. And it was very good.

I would like to thank Aunty Angela, Helen and her sister for bringing the spices and sausages all the way to Singapore and cooking up a storm.

¡Gracias por una cena excelente!

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Posted on 27th Oct 2006 in Food and Drink, Puerto Rican

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There Are 2 Comments

 

dguard00 commented on November 5, 2013 at 11:46 am


I’m a puertorican living in Singapore and would love to eat at this place. Is the name of the restaurant New Rican? Where is it located?


 

ivan commented on November 9, 2013 at 3:15 pm


@dguard00: Unfortunately it is not a restaurant. “New Rican” refers to Puerto Ricans born in New York.

There aren’t any Puerto Rican restaurants in Singapore that I know of. However I do like La Barra, a Colombian restaurant.


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