Carib Notes

Plantains, both unripe and ripe, also figure notably in comida puertorriqueña. Tostones, salted slices of fried green plantains, and maduros, slices of sweeter, ripened plantains fried in vegetable oil, come with a number of entrees or can be ordered as sides. Mofongo, a sort of Caribbean take on chicken soup, features a generous ball of mashed, fried green plantain, bits of pork, garlic and olive oil. Crunchy, grainy and garlicky, a bite of mofongo is slurped up with a spoonful of caldo de pollo, the accompanying chicken broth.

On occasion, K-Rico serves Puerto Rican pasteles, a tamale-esque concoction using a green plantain and shredded yuca masa (dough) filled with a sofrito-laced pork filling. The pasteles, wrapped in banana leaves, are then boiled, rather than steamed.

Consider washing down your ultimate order with malta, a thick, foamy non-alcoholic brew ragingly popular in Puerto Rico and other places in the Caribbean. "I used to think malta tasted nasty," declares Lara's 15-year-old daughter, Carla, of its slightly bitter, caramel-con-malt flavor, "but now I love it."

K-Rico owner Elsie Lara.
Casey McKee
K-Rico owner Elsie Lara.

By the time I leave, people spill out K-Rico's front door, filling a number of white plastic chairs and tables outside. Urania Hernandez, K-Rico's pleasant front counter lady from Sinaloa, is patiently explaining the unfamiliar menu in Spanish to the next person in line. Eavesdropping on her explanation, I depart, hands full of food for later, wondering how hard it would be to grow plantains in Phoenix.

But why bother when K-Rico is so close?

Contact Kathleen Vanesian at her online address: goodtaste@newtimes.com

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