I first tried them dining in local Cuban Restaurants Versailles and El Cochinito. It was surprising to see my dinner order of meat, rice, and black beans, with Sweet Fried Plantains on the same plate. It's a nice contrast to a heavy meal of protein and carbs. And yes, this dessert-like side goes deliciously with the entree.
Plantains are popular in South and Central America, the Caribbean, as well as parts of Mexico. They are even grown in Africa, Australia and Asia. The leaves are also used for roasting meat, like my Hawaiian Kalua Pig recipe, here.
Maybe you've accidentally bought a plantain thinking it was a regular banana? If you bite into a peeled one, you will get a mouthful of bitterness, but fry up a batch and and you will be surprised how mild they become.
Plantains can be cooked during any part of the ripening stages. Frying green plantains yields a potato-like flavor - it's not sweet, but not bitter either. A yellow plantain is semi-sweet. Waiting for a plantain to turn completely black yields the sweetest flavor. Even at it's blackest, the inner flesh stays yellow and soft.
So you can match your taste preference to the color of a plantain. They are usually sold green, but you can find them at almost any ripened stage. A green plantain can take a couple of weeks to reach max ripeness.
It's an easy and quick dish to make; the only hard part is finding plantains. I go to my local Latin market where they sell for 50 cents to a $1 per pound, just the right price for this El Tightwad Cuisiner. Since the majority of the Los Angeles populace is Latino, I find that plantains are carried in almost every large supermarket or neighborhood bodega. I even get plantains from my local 99c only Store.
Surprisingly, even store-bought frozen cooked plantains reheat quite well. I've tried a couple different brands and they microwave perfectly, staying moist and sweet. If you've never tried Sweet Fried Plantains before, this is a sure-fire way to see if you like them.
For cooking plantains, just peel and slice. I slice them thick, and at an angle so they are a little longer than straight cuts.
Fry plantains in oil like you would for french fries, and they only need to be lightly brown. You do have to watch the ripened black plantains closely when cooking -- because of their high sugar content they can burn. Plantains at the market can be quite large, and just one makes enough for a serving or two.
This is a perfect side for my Cuban recipe entrees like: Roast Pork, Cuban Sandwich, or just plain Black Beans and White (or brown) Rice.
Next time you make a Latin-themed meal, try adding a few slices of Sweet Fried Plantains to the plate for a taste of candied perfection.
Sweet Fried Plantains - VIDEO
Play it here, video runs 49 seconds.
My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.
Ingredients (about 2 servings per plantain)
- 1 black plantain - It can be black or partially black and yellow. The blacker the plantain the sweeter.
- 1/2 inch deep vegetable oil for frying - may need to add more depending how many plantains you fry.
Peel and slice the plantain. A plantain stem is quite tough so you may need to just slice it off where the plantain flesh starts. You may be able to then peel the plantain easier. It's okay to slice into the peel lengthwise from end to end, if it is too tough. The plantain flesh will be firm, but with a little give.
Click on any photo to see larger.
Once the plantain is peeled, I like to make slices at a diagonal, so each piece is about three inches long, and about one inch thick. Go for a fairly thick piece, but it will be fine anyway you slice it!
Add oil to a medium sized pan or pot. You want the oil to be about half an inch to an inch deep. You don't need the temperature to be as hot as you would for making French fries, but go with a medium temperature, so you can easily watch that the banana slices don't burn. You may need to add more oil as you fry, if you are cooking more than one plantain.
When frying go for a medium brown color. You will need to watch closely toward the end, as brown can turn to black and burn quickly. Cooking time will vary depending how hot the oil gets. Drain on a paper towel and serve warm.