Puerto Rican cuisine in Florida
The culinary treasures of Puerto Rico have their day in the sun across the state.
At La Placita, diners choose a traditional plantain base or trifongo with yuca and two kinds of plantains and sauced with everything from old-school caldo to truffle butter.
“I tried to make them not too huge,” Mendin says, “so people could try more Puerto Rican dishes.”
What else to try? Tart vinegary escabeche, tripleta sandwiches (Mendin’s trio is beefsteak, pork and pastrami), asopao soups, guisada stews and rice with pigeon peas are on most menus — with a lots of seafood, especially conch and lobster tail.
Then there’s cuchifritos, a wide world of fried fritters and croquetas made from plantains, corn meal or bacalao.
Cuchifritos are a staple of food trucks, which were ubiquitous in Puerto Rico, parked on beaches, roads and next to schools decades before they became a mainland fad.
The new World Food Truck in Kissimmee is a permanent food park close to the Disney tourist zone, with more than two dozen food trucks, open seating, music and dancing. Not all the trucks serve Puerto Rican dishes, but at least six dish out mofongos and cuchifritos and more until 2, 3 and 4 a.m. on weekends.
Three now have additional locations stretching west along I-4 to Tampa, where there is a another brightly colored food truck park on North Lois Avenue, which is all Puerto Rican, complete with tented seating and live music on weekends.
Spanking clean La Fiebre del Sabor Criolla has a wide range of mofongos and sides. Chinchorrear Es La Que Hay takes cuchifritos to new dimensions; alcapurrias can be two feet long, and bacailitos spread out like elephant ears.
The perfect accompaniment is juice, jugo or frappe in a rainbow of tropical tastes and ice creamstyled flavors like chocolate and Nutella made with coconut water or cream.
We are sure to have more chances to explore the taste of the island, always with a touch of annatto in the seasoning and Puerto Rican salsa and reggaeton in the background.
Read more in Florida Trend's June issue.
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