On Wednsdays through Sundays on an empty lot at Prospect Avenue and 156th Street in Woodstock, you'll find Mama Isbaella's Place, a seasonal, stationary Puerto Rican food truck devoted to pastelillos and alcapurrias.
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Trying mofongo throughout the Bronx, I'd found the dishes to be uniformly stale and uninspired. That is, until I tried the version at 188 Cuchifritos.
An herbal sauce made with mint and parsley, flavored with garlic and citrus juice.
One of the city's most known lechoneras is Tremont's El Nuevo Bohio, and few other Puerto Rican restaurants are so well regarded. Many Puerto Rican diners do a dish or two serviceably if not spectacularly, but a big part of the selling point is economics. Bohio sticks to a ridiculously cheap price list, but sets itself apart from other restaurants that stop at offering a damn good meal.
The air was already heavy with smoked pork, aromatic chiles, briny capers and olives, and pungent cumin, and I was just getting ready to add beef broth to the mix. I paused to consider this miraculous rice dish from Puerto Rico. There is nothing humble about this dish at all. It's rich, fragrant, and deliciously meaty, even though there isn't really that much meat present.
In all my travels across the U.S. and abroad, I've never found another restaurant like Sol Food. Granted, I've never been to Puerto Rico, but it's hard to imagine finding better Puerto Rican cuisine outside the home country than what this spunky little restaurant north of San Francisco turns out of its two kitchens (one for takeout, one for dine-in). I haven't lived in Marin County since 2004, but in the period since Sol Food opened the following year, I've probably eaten their pollo al horno more than any other dish at any other restaurant in the country.
Even though the cooking method went against a lot of my education on how to best cook a pork shoulder, this pernil produced a tender and garlicky meat that rightfully stands as one of the great ways to prepare the ever magical swine.
My first introduction into the wonder of mojo sauce was one of the early seasons of Top Chef, where a contestant (the always entertaining, Howie from the Miami season) braised pork shoulder in a mojo sauce to rave reviews. But that's only the beginning of mojo, which I've discovered since then has many uses and variations. Mojo does triple-duty as a fiery marinade, a condiment, and as a tenderizer for meats, seafood and poultry.
The fresh ham at Chelsea Puerto Rican lunch counter La Taza de Oro is quite a feast for six bucks: a huge pile of pork haunch, roasted, chopped, and heaped onto a long, slightly crusty white roll. Crunchy bits, fatty bits, meaty bits, and all.
"They don't even try to disguise the fact that fat makes up a good one-third of each pork hunk." La Esquina Del Sabor N. Humboldt Drive and Brenock Drive, Chicago IL 60622 (map) The Short Order: Wide array of fried...
Not to be confused with the beef tripe soup known as mondongo, mofongo is a hearty ribsticking dish made from mashed plantains.