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It all started in a work meeting. Now mofongo, one of Puerto Rico’s most notable dishes, has its own holiday: Sept. 24.
While planning a mofongo festival in South Florida, chef and restaurateur José Mendín was in a meeting with representatives of Puerto Rican rum Don Q when he decided to visit Google to find “Mofongo Day.” To his surprise, mofongo, an iconic dish from his native Puerto Rico, did not have a national day.
“I couldn’t believe it. Dishes like tacos, pizzas, hamburgers had their day, even sofrito [Puerto Rican spice mix] had its day. But mofongo, the historic and iconic dish of Puerto Rico, no,“ Mendín told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Mendín is co-owner with actor, host and entrepreneur Julián Gil of the iconic Puerto Rican restaurant La Placita en Miami, famously known for a mural of the Puerto Rican flag on its three story building. (Mendin also operates Rivertail and Piefather in Fort Lauderdale, and his Pubbelly Sushi brand is expanding into Broward and Palm Beach counties.)
The chef decided to undertake the task of creating National Mofongo Day and getting it certified at the National Day Archives.
“This day was created so that everyone can celebrate mofongo and we can pay tribute to the most iconic Puerto Rican dish. We want all Puerto Ricans who live in the United States, those of the Isla del Encanto and the world, to have a day to celebrate mofongo as part of the Puerto Rican gastronomic culture, “ Gil said.
Mofongo is typically made with fried plantains and pork rinds. It can be served with beef, meat, chicken or shrimp broth for lunch or dinner.
“The most traditional mofongo is made frying plantains and mashing them in the pilón [pestle] and you add garlic and some kind of pork. There are people who put pork and pork rinds on it. I put the pork belly that I confit before so that it is very soft and I mash it with green banana, garlic, olive oil and butter,“ Mendin says. “You can make it with yucca, with ripe bananas and even potatoes if you want, but the traditional one is with green plantain.”
To celebrate the first National Mofongo Day, La Placita will serve a special menu on Sept. 24, highlighting six types of mofongo ($8), including conch salad, fried meat with Don Q aged glaze, ropa vieja (shredded beef), and more. Guests can pair each bite with specially priced cocktails ($8) featuring Don Q Rum, $2 Medalla Light, and $10 Signature Cocktails.
Not only that, but “we are going to celebrate the mofongo with music, pleneros [Puerto Rican musicians] who are going to sing Puerto Rican bomba. There will be a DJ playing salsa all night. And in collaboration with Ron Don Q, we will be serving different cocktails and with mofongo in smaller portions you will be able to taste more types of mofongo. … We are going to have a good time,” Mendin said.
This Sept. 24, “people can start making the dish at home, sharing it with people who have never eaten it before. Restaurants can also pay tribute to this iconic dish by promoting it on social media and with its different types of preparation, “ said Mendín, a five-time James Beard Award semi finalist. “National Mofongo Day will eventually become a Puerto Rican holiday because of the love that all Puerto Ricans have for this iconic dish.”
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“On the menu [at La Placita Miami] there is usually an entire mofongo section, which we call the Mofongo Shop, where people can choose between plantain mofongo, yuca, trifongo and the ‘mofongo experience’, which has the base of mofongo with all the accompaniments around like shrimp with garlic, salmorejo de Jueyes (crab), fried meat, ropa vieja (shredded beef), with broth, octopus salad, conch salad,“ he said.
Born and raised in San Juan, Mendín says that mofongo “has been everything to me, since my childhood when I grew up in Puerto Rico and until now, I eat it, I love it and I serve it in my restaurant.
“I tell people to come and try it. We are going to put the mofongo on a pedestal and promote our Puerto Rican culture, which is what we like to do,” he said.
La Placita is at 6789 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Open from Wednesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner. Delivery and take-out is available. laplacitamiami.comíí