A couple of years ago my daughter and I enjoyed a five-day birding tour of the high country in Ecuador, then an eight-day tour of the Galapagos islands. Being vegetarian wasn’t a challenge there; we ate very well and enjoyed foods that we hadn’t encountered before. One of the foods that was in many meals was plantain. Plantain around here means the lawn and stream-side weed that helps treat stinging nettle and insect bites. However plantain the fruit look like bananas, but are prepared very differently. High in iron, potassium and fiber, they are very versitile and often used in recipes instead of potatoes.
Plantains can be used in three stages of ripeness. When they are green they are starchy and hard to the touch. They are often boiled and mashed like potatoes. When they are yellow, they are sweeter as the starch has converted to sugar, but still not soft and are difficult to peel. When they are black, but not mushy, they are sweetest.
A common snack in South America and also in Africa are plantain chips. In Ecuador they are called tostones and sold in bags like potato chips. They are very easy to make, and very yummy to eat. Photos follow the recipe.
- Three plantains, yellow or slightly black
- Oil for frying
- Boil a small pot of water and submerge the whole unpeeled plantains for several minutes. The skins may begin to crack.
- Remove from boiling water and allow to cool.
- Peel the plantains and slice into ¾ inch disks.
- Heat enough oil on medium-high heat in a large skillet to cover the bottom.
- Lay sliced plantains in the oil and fry for about three minutes. They will be soft. Remove from oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
- Keep the oil temperature the same.
- Using the bottom of a glass, flatten the softened plantains so that they are very thin. Sliding a metal spatula under each chip when smashing helps. (A Puerto Rican version has you dip the disks into cold water just before refrying, to make them crisper. It would also make the oil splashier.)
- Lay the flattened disks back into the oil and fry for another three minutes or so.
- Remove the now crisp disks to a paper towel for draining.
- They will crisp even more as they cool slightly.
- Eat as is, or lightly salt, or sprinkle with chili-lime powder.
- They are very good with dip, too.
- Makes about thirty chips.