Growing up in the Bronx I was surrounded by so many different cultures. I grew up in a pretty traditional Nigerian home, foods and customs traditional to how my parents grew up while at home. This is no exception for many immigrant children like me growing up. So when I'd leave the comfort of my home and gel with the customs of others, whether it be school, work, or events, I got to experience foods and witness traditions and dressing - all because I lived in the melting pot of New York City.
Just like other boroughs, The Bronx has very distinct groups that come in and settle into different pockets around the city. It's like the first person in that neighborhood - holds down the forth until all his or her friends get visas to come over. And there you have it, an ethnic community. The Bronx has a lot of Carribean pockets all over, mainly Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, and Dominican. Dominicans run The Bronx and I went to Highschool where the majority of my graduating class was Dominican. I started hanging out with my buddies after school at times trying to pick up the rapid Spanish volley - I never could understand despite my 4 years of Spanish.
I was introduced to mangú by a high school mate - we'd meet on the public bus en route to school. One day she invited me upstairs while she got ready, already late I complied. Got off the bus and headed down the winding crossroads of Project blocks, took the elevator up and was greeted by her mom, who insisted on making breakfast before we left. The apartment was relatively small, so I sat in the kitchen and watched her mother cook. I watched her peel red onions, salt it, then add vinegar - that seemed odd. Vinegared onions?
I continued to watch her - she had already dropped green bananas into a pot of boiling water. I watched in fascination. Occasionally she'd ask me something and I'd respond, not tearing my eyes away from the magic she was about to serve. A fried egg, and some fried salami later, I plate of mashed plantains and fried vinegared onions was presented to me. The whole place smelled delectable and the food was good enough to devour, and that I did.
Mangú is a staple dish in the Dominican Republic, often eaten for breakfast with los tres golpes (the three hits) such as fried egg, cheese, and salami, however, I eat it whenever I crave it and I know I'm not alone. Since I've eaten it, it took me years to muster myself to actually make it. I was nervous but my memory was photogenic. It was a bust. I later learned that keeping the water of the boiled plantain helps mash the plantain better, also with some butter and additional seasonings.
Since turning vegan, the craving is even stronger, so I present to you an easy recipe to follow that's filling and easy on the pockets. If I wasn't allergic to avocados, I'd totally use it as a garnish.
- 1 Green Plantain
- 1 quart of water
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- ½ Sliced Red Onion
- ¼ cup of vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of Adobo (seasoning)
- 1 tablespoon of vegan butter (optional)
- Slice onion into a small bowl
- Add vinegar and adobo, stir then set aside
- Cut plantain in half and then cut off the two stems to allow enough water to penetrate the fruit. Cut vertical slits on each side of the halves to make it easy to peel once fully cooked through
- Drop the halves into a pot of boiling water over medium heat; add salt (Cook 30)
- Use a fork to pierce the to top of a half to check if tender (like a potato) Set aside
- Heat a skillet on medium heat then add in oil. Once hot scoop out onions and fry until soft
- Add the vinegar and cook down to a reduction
- Remove the skin then place the plantains into a bowl
- Use a fork to mash the plantain, slowly add in some water from the plantains to aid the mash
- Add butter for added flavor
- Mash and add as little or as much liquid to get your preferred consistency
- Plate your mash (I scooped mine into the peel of a banana) then add the onions on top