Monday, July 21, 2008

Let's talk about Puerto Rican food

Even though this is a blog that's all about me, sometimes I get tired of talking about myself. It's true.

Let's talk about Puerto Rican food.

Why Puerto Rican food? Because Monique asked me: Have you ever had Puerto Rican food?

I was in Puerto Rico once for my honeymoon back in 1994. We had a few days to explore the island before we picked up a cruise. Surely, at some point in those few days, I tried Puerto Rican food. At least, I hope I did. But I don't know.

I did an Internet search for Puerto Rican restaurants in my area in the off-chance that I'd eaten at one and not realized that it was specifically Puerto Rican. Looking at the results, the answer is probably no. They seem to be clustered on West Division Street in the Humbolt Park area of Chicago. Not one of my usual haunts.

Truthfully, I'm not even sure what defines Puerto Rican food.

Here's how Welcome to Puerto Rico defines it:
Although Puerto Rican cooking is somewhat similar to both Spanish and Mexican cuisine, it is a unique tasty blend of Spanish, African, TaĆ­no, and American influences, using such indigenous seasonings and ingredients as coriander, papaya, cacao, nispero, apio, plantains, and yampee. Locals call their cuisine "cocina criolla".
That description looks tasty to me.

So, anyone recommend a Puerto Rican restaurant in the Chicago area, preferably in the northwest or far west suburbs? Or maybe near O'Hare Airport? I'm willing to trek into the city, but that takes more planning and organization, so it will probably take much longer to happen.

And if I do make this journey, any specific foods I should try?

I suspect that possibly only Monique can answer these questions for me, but I hope there are others with this information too.

Anyone else out there ever tried Puerto Rican food? What did you think?


  1. Anonymous7/21/2008

    YES! And it was probably at one of those restaurants in Humboldt Park. Well, maybe their predecessors. It was, after all, some time in the mid-80s.

    And YUM! I have no idea what I ate, but it was good. I know this, because the only ethnic restaurant where I've ever had bad food was a Vietnamese restaurant in Denver.

  2. Yum... not sure I've ever had Puerto Rican food, but our food (Filipino) is derived from Spanish food and I love our food... so I'm sure I would like it too.

    p.s. one of the HOTTEST guys I ever dated was Puerto Rican. Hell if I can remember his name though lol but ask me to draw his abs and it would be picture perfect HAHA =P

  3. @Kelly -- I guess I'll be staying away from Vietnamese restaurants in Denver. I suspect that won't be difficult. :)

    @Fragileheart -- Too bad Doodle Week is over, because I'd be curious to see that drawing. LOL. Maybe you should doodle it anyway?

  4. Anonymous7/21/2008

    Just the one, Haley. There were others that were really good. But if you're in Denver, go for the Mexican food. OUTSTANDING! :)

  5. Hmmmm ... try Western Avenue between Armitage and Fullerton. Don't know if any of the food there is "Puerto Rican" per se, but chances are there is a decent place around there fitting the bill. It's my old neighborhood (and the setting for "Baptized in Formaldehyde") and it's not as rough as Humboldt Park. In any case, there's a great Cuban place and some good Mexican restaurants as well ...

  6. Hehe, Puerto Rican food is SO good, and I guess I am biased since I am Puerto Rican.

    The reason I asked the question was because I have lived in so many different places, and I see Cuban, Mexican and Caribbean restaurants all over the place. It's so rare to see an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant (outside of NYC or maybe places in FL).

    I can't even suggest what to eat because I can't think of anything I DON'T like (no I'm not shouting). Usually, you can get a sample dish so you can have a little of everything.

    All right, Tour de Puerto Rico is over ;) Thanks for answering my question :)

  7. @Kelly -- Now you have me craving Mexican food. Thanks. :)

    @Don -- I was afraid as coming off as too much of a suburban girl by outright asking if Humboldt Park was a "safe" place. I hate flaunting my ignorance like that. That said, I looked at the map, and the area you suggest seems really close to Humboldt Park. Is this just my suburban ignorance rearing its ugly head again? Are they further apart than I think? Thanks for the suggestions. I'm imagining many culinary expeditions in my future.

    @Monique -- This has been a fun topic. Thanks for bringing it up.

    One of my quiet real-life friends who never leaves a comment on the actual blog suggested I try mofongo, which is, I guess "Essentially, ... a mashed mound of plantains into which a combination of seafood, meat, or vegetables is added." ( She raves about the dish. I think this friend is the one I'll nominate to go eat Puerto Rican food with me.

  8. Hi! Kathy from The Junk Drawer. I couldn't listen to your most recent post on Odiogo yet, as it hasn't been archived. But I did listen to this post, and the guy does an amazing job with the pronunciation of Puerto Rico and non-English descriptions of food. I really love that guy. Great post by the way! Except now I'm hungry. Again.

  9. @Kathy -- Thanks for giving it a listen. :) I was impressed with how he did also. I admit, I've been cracking up listening to some of his pronunciations, especially with compound words, but the Spanish didn't phase him much.


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