This is the forty-ninth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
Since moving back to school, I’ve missed my family’s home-cooked meals—nothing beats my mom’s and grandma’s delicious dinners. In particular, I miss our traditional Guatemalan staples: tortillas, beans, rice, and some form of cooked plantains. A perfect mix of salty, sweet, and savory, these ingredients pair well together, creating a hearty, satisfying food experience. When I was home, I would sometimes get bored of eating the same traditional side dishes with the same meals, but what can I say—distance really does make the heart grow fonder. In fact, I recently started craving the foods I would’ve sighed at a month ago. I miss my grandmother’s platanos, or lightly fried plantains, the most. Sticky, buttery, indulgent, these golden-brown delights are a comfort food my entire family reaches for at the dinner table. With their light, natural sweetness, platanos complement a rich meal and always make dinner a bit more interesting.
Plantains may just look like strange, gigantic, starchy green bananas (I will admit, I thought this as a kid), but they are actually quite versatile, easy to cook with, and tasty. They are beloved in many cultures, especially in the Latin American community. In fact, plantains are so common that they are always a part of an authentic Latin American dinner in some way, ranging from Puerto Rican and Dominican deep-fried tostones to the deliciously sweet, caramelized plantains in my family’s dessert recipes.
As I have learned from my grandma, there are countless recipes for cooking them depending on their ripeness: you can crisp them up or cook them until soft and chewy, have sweet ones with a sprinkling of sugar, or add a dash of sea-salt for homemade snackable plantain chips. The possibilities are endless, fun, and absolutely scrumptious! I am sharing this particular recipe for fried sweet plantains because it is the recipe we enjoy most frequently at home. Plus, it is a warm, comforting, homey dish perfect for the colder months we are now entering. Ultimately, platanos are a great recipe to make when you are pressed for time and need to whip up something fairly quickly. Their unique, customizable, salty-sweet flavor will be pleasing to all!
- 2 plantains, yellowish and ripe, sliced
- ¼ cup of vegetable or canola oil (approximately enough to cover half of the plantain slices)
- A dash of salt, and/or sugar
Start by placing a medium-sized pan on the stove at medium heat. Add your oil of choice, and heat the oil until it is just about to bubble. Because you are lightly frying as opposed to deep-frying the plantains, you don’t need a ton of oil—just enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan.
As the oil heats up, slice the plantains sideways, across their width. This is similar to cutting a banana into circular pieces to make banana chips/coins. For softer, mushier platanos, slice the plantains into thick pieces. For crispy, crunchy platanos, make the pieces a bit thinner.
Next, add a few of the sliced plantains to the hot oil. Don’t add too many to the pan at once, or else you may accidentally burn them. After a couple of minutes, the plantains should turn a golden-brown or caramel color. When this happens, flip the plantains over and cook the other side. Do this until there are no more sliced plantain pieces left.
Once both sides are amber colored, they have been fried to perfection and are ready to be taken out. Use a spatula or slotted spoon to remove the platanos from the pan and place them on a plate covered with paper towels. This step is important because the paper towels will soak up any excess oil. Make sure to spread the platanos out when placing them on the plate. In my experience, this will prevent the platanos from sticking together or forming a clump. Pat the platanos dry, add a dash of salt or sugar, and serve while hot!
For an extra finishing touch, serve the platanos with sour cream mixed with sugar, an extra sprinkling of salt, or even a drizzle of honey! Each combination adds an exciting new element of flavor to the platanos. However, they are also just as delicious on their own! This recipe feeds about 4 people, so grab a handful before they are gone!