- Puertoriccan Finger Food
- By: QP
Long before restaurants began serving local cuisine, Puerto Ricans who wanted their fix of home-cooked snacks searched out small shacklike establishments by the side of the road, particularly along the coast, where the food was usually prepared atop wood-burning fogones. Now known as kioskos, or kiosks, and sporting a few modern conveniences, these humble establishments make a great way to combine a bit of local cooking with a bit of local culture.
Kiosks appear wherever and whenever a festival is taking place, but there are also permanent structures in certain locales. Best known are the dozens of kiosks that line Highway 3 in front of Luquillo’s Monserrate Beach, and a close runner-up are those found along Road 187 in Piñones east of San Juan. A few are open during the week, but virtually all kiosks come to life on weekends, when crowds of beachgoers slake their thirst with cold coconut juice served in the shell and their hunger with such favorites as bacalaitos and alcapurrias.
In preparing bacalaitos, or salt-cod fritters, cod flakes are stirred into a batter, liberally sprinkled with garlic, oregano and sweet chili peppers, and fried by tablespoonfuls in oil. Alcapurrias are also fritters, made by spreading mashed yautia roots and green plantains into a thick oval, topping it with a ground meat stuffing, then folding and frying it in oil until golden brown. Other favorite appetizers include tostones (flattened green plantain fritters), rellenos de papa (ground meat and potato balls), surullitos (fried cornmeal and cheese sticks), croquetas de pescados (fish croquettes), and empanadillas de jueyes (land crab turnovers). All are delicious.