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Pan-Fried Sweet Plantains [BVI Food Recipe]

For many Caribbean visitors, food is a means to discover a new place. I have a particularly strong affinity for exploring the islands and creating memories through food. I may not remember the name of a small beachside restaurant where I had dinner, but I’ll surely remember the type of fish I ate and the spices that seasoned it. I regularly seek out local cuisine, and when I find a food I like, I tend to eat it repeatedly. Thus began my love of plantains while on a holiday in the Caribbean.

Whenever I cook with plantains, memories of my first visit to Puerto Rico inevitably surface. I had tasted plantains a few times previously, but my real introduction came when I arrived in San Juan and immediately discovered tostones, highly addictive twice-fried savoury plantains. (One of the world’s best “pub foods,” in my opinion.) Tostones were my gateway to a variety of delicious plantain dishes. Throughout my 10 days in San Juan and then Vieques, I ate tostones whenever they appeared on a restaurant menu. But I didn’t limit my plantain consumption to that tasty snack food. I enjoyed plantain fritters, mofongo, chips, sweet-fried plantains and a seemingly endless array of plantain preparations. I returned home with a newfound appreciation for the humble plantain, along with plenty of recipes for preparing them.

Due to their impressive versatility, plantains are ubiquitous on tables in the Caribbean. When its skin is green, a plantain functions as a starchy vegetable, much like a potato. Underripe plantains are used in tostones and chips, and are a common addition to soups and stews. Caribbean cooks combine plantains with various tubers—including dasheen, cassava and sweet potatoes—as part of the classic island “provisions,” in which the ingredients are boiled and served as a side dish. As a plantain ripens and its skin turns yellow, the fruit takes on a slight sweetness. Semi-ripe plantains are an excellent accompaniment for grilled meats or fish. By the time black spots cover its skin, a plantain is sweet and tastes like a banana. Unlike a banana, though, a very ripe plantain will retain its shape when sliced and cooked. Sweet pan-fried plantains are one of my favourite easy desserts and always a crowd pleaser.

Plantains are a great choice if you’re seeking locally-produced foods, as they are grown throughout the Caribbean. Supermarkets and farmers markets typically stock plantains at varying stages of ripeness, so choose the type that suits your cooking needs.  Avoid fruit that is moldy, squishy or dried out. Plantains require no refrigeration and can keep for a week or two, making them a boat-friendly food.

Plantains are typically peeled before cooking (unlike a banana, they are rarely eaten raw.)The process of peeling a plantain depends on ripeness. A ripe plantain may be peeled like a banana, but an unripe plantain will likely require more effort. To prepare, first trim the ends. Then score the skin along one of its ridges, cutting through the skin but not into the flesh of the fruit. Pull the skin sideways to peel.

Caribbean cooks don’t make small batches of plantains. Rather, they tend to be served—and eaten—in generous portions. Fortunately, I’m more than happy to eat plantains meal after meal, whether from a little Puerto Rican restaurant or my galley.

Pan-Fried Sweet Plantains


2 ripe plantains

2 Tbl canola oil or butter

Brown sugar

Freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 small lime

Dark rum

Peel plantains and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch-thick slices. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the plantain slices in a single layer until lightly browned on both sides, about 8-10 minutes total. Remove plantains from heat. Sprinkle with brown sugar and nutmeg. Squeeze lime over the slices and drizzle with a little rum. Serves 2.

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