FRITURAS: The Illustrated Puerto Rican Spanish Guide to Fried Food
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If you are talking about fried treats you are talking about Puerto Rico. And if you are talking about Puerto Rican fried food, you are taking about Los Kioskos de Luquillo.
The other day I spent some time at this iconic place in the north east coast of Puerto Rico. The legendary Luquillo’s Kiosks are a group of 60 establishments that sell local food that have been around for years. My dad told me that the origins of the kiosks happened when street vendors started selling fried food to the people that visited the beach. The kiosks evolved to permanent structures built later by the government. The kiosks are numbered and also have names.
Fried food terms in Puerto Rico
Before I continue with the list of fried “cuisine” that you can taste in the kiosks, here are some fried food terms commonly used in Puerto Rico:
1. frituras: It is the generic term for fried treats. One of the characteristics of a fritura is that, in most cases, they are the handiest of the finger foods. A couple of napkins will be enough and you can eat it while walking. Not all fried foods are considered frituras. For example, French fries and fried chicken are not considered frituras in Puerto Rico, since they are not traditional Puerto Rican fried foods (although both are extremely popular!).
2. cuchifrito: A synonym for fritura. It can also be used to refer to the place where frituras are sold.
3. fritanga: A variety of frituras.
4. friquitín: A place where frituras are sold. This word can also be use to refer to a low class bar.
10 most common Puerto Rican frituras you will find in Los Kioskos de Luquillo
Here is my list and pictures of the most common frituras that you will find in Luquillo’s Kioks. As a disclaimer, this list can be consider the trans fat major offenders because everything is fried in shortening (manteca).
Bacalaitos are salt cod fritters filled with minced cod fish with cilantro, garlic and onions. Bacalaitos paste is almost liquid, but when fried it turns crispy on the outside and chewy in the inside. This is my personal favorite! English translation: cod fritter
Every Latin American country has its own version of arepas. In Puerto Rico, arepas are made with lard, butter, flour, and baking powder. It can also be compared to a fried bread. Preparation and cooking varies according to the town and family recipe. In the Kioskos de Luquillo you will find them stuffed with shrimp, king crab and octopus or ciegas –that translates to “blind” which means with no stuffing. English translation: fried bread
3. Empanadillas and Pastelillos
Puerto Rican stuffed pastry pockets are called empanadillas or pastelillos and both are very similar. The outside doughs are made of flour, salt, water, egg and shortening. The most common in the kiosks are jueyes (crab), lobster, shrimp and chapín (trunkfish). For the non-seafood fans your options are: cheese, beef, chicken and pizza (cheese and tomato sauce). The difference between the empanadilla and pastelillos resides in the size and way that they are closed. Generally, empanadillas are bigger and twisted along the sides. In the other hand, pastelillos are smaller and closed pressing a fork around the end. English translation: turnover
These are not the traditional Mexican tacos. Puerto Rican tacos can be described as a cylindrical empanadilla. It is the same dough, stuffed with beef, rolled-up and fried. In my recent trip there were also one filled with a cheese dog, although it is not a traditional Puerto Rican option.
5. Sorullos de maíz
Sorullos are long rolls made with corn flour, salt, sugar and butter. The sorullos that you will find in the kiosks are huge compared to the frozen ones sold at supermarket or the ones served as appetizers in restaurants. You can dip sorullos in mayoketchup sauce (a dip made with equal parts of mayonnaise and ketchup). English translation: corn fritters, corn sticks
7. Relleno de papa
The traditional relleno de papa or stuffed potato is basically a ball of mashed potato filled with seasoned ground pork and sealed with flour. I found a cool step by step recipe with pictures here. English translation: stuffed potato
Canoas translates to canoes and as you can see in the picture, it really looks like one. Canoas are fried amarillo (sweet ripe plantain) cut in half and stuffed with ground beef. You can add cheese on top. English translation: Beef-filled whole ripe plantains
Using the same ingredients as the canoas you can make piononos. The difference is how you set up everything. Piononos are slices of ripe plantain stuck together with toothpicks and filled with the seasoned ground beef. English translation: Fried filled ripe plantain rolls
The last, but not least! Tostones are one of the most popular frituras in Puerto Rico. It is a doubled fried smash plantain (green) commonly used as a side dish. Just add salt and dip it on mayoketchup for extra taste! Variations are made from pana (breadfruit). English translation: Fried plantains
Puerto Rican fritters are not the only thing that are sold in the kiosks, you will find other places such as kiosks #38 Ceviche Hut, #23 Antojitos Mexicanos and #48 Gringo’s that serves American’s favorites food such as hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken wings. And of course, lots and lots of alchohol.
For more Puerto Rican Spanish vocabulary, check out the book Speaking Boricua: A Practical Guide to Puerto Rican Spanish to learn more slang vocabulary from Puerto Rico.
So far, which Puerto Rican fritter is your favorite?
Check out these other Puerto Rican Culture articles.