Monday, September 27, 2010


As promised a while ago, here is my recipe for tostones! (Always with an exclamation point because DAMN THEY ARE THAT GOOD!)

Also known sometimes as platanos verdes or patacones, tostones! are the most delicious, heavenly, savory, yum yum yummers Latin American side dish you ever will come across. They're kind of like a cross between a potato chip (a really, really good, thick one, like a Kettle chip) and home fries and something else otherworldly.

If you've ever had platanos maduros before (the kind of plantain that is sweet when cooked), you're probably thinking, what the...? Platanos are sweet, not savory, crazy lady!

But the key here is the ripeness of the platano when you cook it, which is easily discernible by its color. A ripe -- and thus sweet-tasting when cooked -- platano is yellow in color, similar to its banana cousins. An unripe -- and thus savory and very umami when cooked -- platano is green in color. Thus the alternate term "platanos verdes" (green/unripe plantains) for tostones.

 Tostones are sadly, miserably, unfortunately, tragically quite hard to find in restaurants on the west coast. When I lived in New York City, I could get them everywhere and didn't eat them every day, thinking they were (as they ought to be) commonplace. Then I moved back to the west coast (San Francisco initially and Oregon now) and realized what a rare delicious golden treasure they are in this land of Mexican and Central American food with a sad dearth of proper Latin Caribbean (Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban) food.

Being the daughter of a Colombian, you would think I'd be partial to the maduros. My dad can't get enough of them, and I remember him teaching me to cook them when I was young. But as soon as I tasted my first toston, I was a lost cause: it was tostones for me, forever. I like the maduros, sure, and especially in certain meals, situations, etc. But give me a choice and I'll always choose the savory tostones.

So the only way for me to satisfy my toston craving is to make them myself. And while, yes, these are not the healthiest food in the world to eat, when you make them yourself, they totally fall into Food Rule #39 of Michael Pollan's: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

These go wonderfully with rice and beans; grilled chicken; fried eggs; anything else with even a little bit of latin flavor or that needs a carby, salty side. As for me, I could eat an entire batch solo, no problem. But only as long as the requisite mojo de ajo (garlic-lemon dipping sauce) is on the side.

And so, without further ado, I present to you my recipe for these gorgeous wonderful delights of salty and garlicky and yummmm:

  •  As many platanos verdes (green plantains) as you can handle -- for me, this usually falls somewhere between my desire to eat 17 and my capacity to cook anywhere between 2 to 4
  • Plenty of high-heat cooking oil, such as sunflower or safflower
  • Salt water
  • Salt

1. Peel your platanos -- they don't peel like regular bananas due to their un-ripeness. You'll need to score the outside in two to three vertical lines to get the peel to come off.

2. Slice them into fairly thick rounds -- they're going to get smashed into flat delicious toston-ness, so they need to start out pretty substantial.

3. Meanwhile, heat enough cooking oil to cover the bottom of your skillet by about 1/4 inch til it's hot; I usually set mine on medium-high.

4. If you've got a lot of tostones, fry them in batches: place each piece in the skillet so that it can lay flat but not crowd the others. Let them get just golden, about 90 seconds to 2 minutes or so, depending on the heat of your stove. You don't want them to brown. Once they've reached that gorgeous golden state, flip them so they get golden on the other side, too.

5. Once they're all golden on both sides, remove from the skillet to a plate with paper towels to soak up excess oil. You can turn off your skillet for now.

6. While they were cooking, you've set up a little toston-smashing station: Small bowl of salt water, a clean surface on which to smash (I sometimes use a plate for this), and a smasher -- I usually use one of our flat, heavy-bottomed glasses. A heavy mug can also work.

7. Take each toston onto your surface, place the smasher over it, and smash just until properly smashed but not falling apart. It can take a few tries to figure out where that line lies; you'll get the hang of it!

8. Dip each smashed toston in salt water and set aside.

9. Once all the tostones are smashed and salt-water dipped, heat up your skillet again, to about the same heat, and fry up the tostones til they cook through and get really golden and just this side of browned.

10. Remove to a paper-towel covered plate, sprinkle with plenty of your favorite salt (I like the big crystals of kosher salt for this job), let them cool just a bit, and enjoy with a dipping sauce of mojo de ajo. HEAVEN.

Coming soon.... my recipe for mojo de ajo!


  1. YAY! so happy 2 c this ESP after we were discussing + i was salivating! actually, it's become a tradition that my very 1st meal when i head back nyc-way is @ 1 of the UWS china latina places + of course tostones play a starring role! can't wait for the mojo de ajo recipe so i can try the whole thing...

  2. I know, just reading this recipe over and looking at the photos made me hungry for tostones.

    Ugh I am so jeals that you'll be in NYC soon -- toston heaven! And I *love* chino-latino places: a plate of fried rice with a side of tostones!

    Mojo de ajo coming soonish, I promise. It's simple but makes all the difference in the world. Yum.

  3. I agree! These are really good. I always have them whenever there are nice bananas at home.


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