Patacones ready to eat.
Patacones ready to eat.

QLIFE – A platano (plantain) is not a banana. Tough it may look like a banana, feel like a banana, and even smell like a banana, it is not a banana, a plantain, like a banana, is a fruit that can be used in both savory and sweet dishes depending on its level of ripeness.

When still green, a platano is hard and starchy, like a potato. As it ripens, the peel turns nearly black, while the flesh becomes yellow and sweet.

Fully ripe platanos are soft and creamy in texture, emit a mild banana fragrance, and are supremely sweet. Platano take several days to ripen, so if you want to cook some soon then buy ones that are already blackened in the supermarket.

Patacones can be eaten alone or accompanied.
Patacones can be eaten alone or accompanied.

From the high-rises of San Jose to the “rancho” of the most remote cornet of the Costa Rica, it is a sure bet you will platanos in the family kitchen, in the market and in a typical casado plate at the local soda.

Platanos come in two colours – maduros (ripe yellow) and verdes (unripe green). The maduros are soft, while the verdes are hard, requiring more preparation and cookinng.

There are many tasty ways to eat platanos: baked, grilled and fried among them.

One the most delicious way to prepare them is to make patacones.  They are also known as tostones (Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and in parts of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela), tachinos or chatinos (Cuba), fritos verde (Dominican Republic), and bananes pesées (Haiti)

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Patacones are twice fried platano slices.

There are many ways to make patacones, but they are really simple to make since they only require 3 ingredients: platanos verdes, vegetable oil and salt.

However, it may take you several tries, get the techinque down, before getting them just right.

This is my favourite way:

  1. Peel the platano verde and cut cross-wise into slices
  2. In a medium heavy frying pan, add enough vegetable oil to cover the platano slices and heat the oil over medium high heat.
  3. Add the platano slices to the heated oil in a single layer. Fry for about a fews minutes per side, until light brown. Carefully remove the platano slices with a slotted spoon, and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
  4. Let the platano cool for a few minutes. Then, place the platano slices on a piece of plastic wrap and cover with another piece of plastic wrap. With a flat pot cover, press well on the pieces of platano, flattening them to desired thickness.
  5. Dip each slice in salted water. Then using tongs add them back in the hot oil in a single layer (you may need to work in batches) and fry for an additional few minutes on each side. Be careful when you fry the soaked platanos, as droplets of water will cause the oil to splatter.
  6. Remove the patacones with slotted spoon and transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb oil, sprinkle with salt to taste.

How is a platano different from a banana?

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  • Platanos are much firmer and heavier than bananas.
  • Platanos have a lower sugar content than bananas, making them less sweet.
  • Platanos should be cooked, whereas bananas can be eaten raw.
  • Platanos can be cooked when still green and not fully ripe, for a starchier consistency and less sweet flavor, or when blackened and fully ripe, for a softer consistency and sweeter flavor. Bananas, however, cannot be eaten when green or unripe, unless you want to experience a distinctly unpleasant chalky aftertaste.

Platanos are a staple in many South American, African, and Asian countries; fortunately, they’re gaining status in the US as well. That’s a good thing since they’re so versatile.