During my travels to Ghana and Costa Rica I was introduced to the most amazing food: Plantains! They look like big bananas, but are sort of pinkish on the inside, grow mostly in tropical climates and can’t be consumed raw. In Ghana they sell plantain chips or fried plantains on the street and my Mama Tica in Costa Rica regularly prepared plátanos fritos, too. We also once made empanadas out of them in a cooking lesson at the language school! Needless to say, they are awesome, so I wanted to share the most famous Costa Rican dish with you: Gallo pinto, which is also great with plantains. Gallo pinto is basically rice mixed with black beans, “gallo”, which actually translates to rooster, here means “a little” and “pinto” means spotted. So we’re about to make a little spotted something. Although I don’t exactly know why the Ticos (the locals of Costa Rica) call it a little something, since they mostly eat loads of it everyday. So here we go, I apologize in advance for the photos, they were taken with my phone and the lighting in the kitchen just sucks. Skip to the end of the page for a quick overview of cooking instructions. If you like details, just continue reading!
1. Find plantains
Depending on where you live these guys might be a little difficult to find. If you live in the U.S. you’ve lucked out (as usual) because they actually have them at Walmart. At least that’s where I found mine, I’d imagine other supermarkets or health food stores have them, too. Now if you live in Germany, it’s not that easy. Friends of mine have reportedly found some in Asian supermarkets (along with yam and red palm oil!!), they might have them in health food stores or, if you have something similar to the Viktualienmarkt in Munich, just any market that may sell exotic foods, that’s the place to look. If you happen to be in Munich, stop by Exoten-Müller (stupidest name ever – but he sells really cool stuff!) and pick up a couple of plantains there. If you buy them from a market, they might be a little closer to being ripe, the ones I got at Walmart were still completely green, and they need to be going towards black for them to be ripe, which takes forever by the way. So buy them ahead of time, and I mean at least two weeks ahead if they’re still green. This is what the one from today looked like, it could have been a little riper, but it’s just so hard (for me) to tell when they’re perfect. Somebody from Costa Rica or any other tropical country needs to explain a trick!!
2. Prepare Gallo Pinto
Beans usually have to soak for a day before cooking them and then the cooking takes hours, too. So this time I was a little lazy and lucky I found a can of ready-made black beans in the cupboard. The rice takes about 30-40 minutes, so you’ll want to start that first. If you’re like me and don’t know how to cook rice off the top of your head: Boil two cups of water for one cup of rice (do NOT, repeat NOT assume that one cup isn’t enough and take two cups – unless you want to feed off of rice only for the next week), add rice to boiling water, return to boiling, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 30-40 minutes. Leaving the lid open a little bit helps prevent the water from flowing over. The beans can be heated anytime in between, since that doesn’t take too long. Once both are done just mix them up and add some salt and pepper and tadaaa – you’ve made gallo pinto!
3. Prepare and fry plantains
The plantains need to be soaked in salt water before wandering into the frying pan. You’ll definitely need a knife to peel them, since they sometimes like to put up a fight when it comes to exiting their protective shell. By the way, one plantain is enough for two to three people, especially when eaten with gallo pinto, since that stuff is extremely filling! Although there are some people, like my parents, that could eat three plantains by themselves, so keep in mind whom you are feeding here. Anyway, next the plantains need to be cut into pieces and placed in a bowl filled with salt water. Don’t be shy with the salt, it really adds to the flavor afterwards.
Place the wet plantains on a paper towel to dry, this prevents a lot of hot oil squirting around when frying. I used Crisco Canola Oil to fry them, anything with more or less neutral taste should work fine. Be generous with the oil, too, they turn out best when they’re nearly covered with it during the frying process. After a couple of minutes you can turn them, they taste best when they’re dark brown and crispy. When they’re ready, place them on a paper towel to let the oil drip off, then serve HOT!
1. Cook rice and beans, mix up to make gallo pinto
2. Peel and slice plantains, place in salt water, then fry in oil
To add some color and freshness prepare a green salad or other yummy veggies to go with it! And in case you have loads of gallo pinto left over: Eat it for breakfast with scrambled eggs, just like the Ticos do! 🙂