Local Flavor > Restaurants/Clubs > Puerto Rico
The traditional cuisine of Puerto Rico, known as comida criolla, is a unique blend of the cooking styles employed by the Island’s ethnic settlers over the centuries. This mingling of flavors and ingredients began with the Taíno Indians’ tradition of cooking with corn and root vegetables such as yams, cassava and taro. Later the Spanish introduced the use of garbanzo beans, rice, cilantro and garlic. The African slaves then brought pigeon peas, and starchy vegetables such as yautia and plantain. All have become staples of Puerto Rican fare.
Much of the delightful flavor, color and aroma of local foods comes from adobo and sofrito—the main herb and spice blends at the heart and soul of many Puerto Rican dishes. Adobo, a thick fragrant paste of crushed peppercorns, oregano, garlic, salt and achiote, is rubbed onto meats and added to stews. Sofrito, an aromatic blend of sautéed peppers, onions and garlic, adds zest and flavors the base of most of the Island’s soups, stews and rice dishes.
Asopao – Arguably Puerto Rico’s most widely loved native dish, this hearty rice gumbo is made with chicken or shellfish. Every Puerto Rican family cherishes its own recipe for this classic comfort food, which when served with a big chunk of pan criollo (fresh local bread) creates a meal to satisfy or soothe the soul.
Empanadillas – These crescent-shaped turnovers, usually eaten as a snack or appetizer, typically come filled with beef, chicken or seafood (such as lobster, shrimp or conch). A modern version of these flaky fried pockets is stuffed with red sauce and cheese, giving them a pizza-like flavor.
Lechon Asado – Spit-roasted pig is traditional for outdoor parties and holiday get-togethers, but you don’t need a special occasion to enjoy this flavorful pork. The crispy skin, chicharrón, is a special treat.
Arroz con pollo - Rice reigns supreme in Puerto Rican fare and this classic dish serves up a heaping helping of rice cooked with tomato sauce and local peppers that is chock- full of tender bits of chicken.
Mofongo - This classic Puerto Rican favorite is made with baked or fried mashed plantains and can be enjoyed as an appetizer, a side dish or main course. New on the scene is the mofongo relleno, a mofongo wrapped around a meat or seafood center in a delicious garlic and tomato-based sauce.
Tembleque – This sweet coconut pudding, topped with fresh cinnamon, makes for the perfect ending to a tasty meal. Tembleque, which translates as “tremble,” derives its name from its jello-like consistency.