Tostones de Panapén (Fried Breadfruit Disks)

16 Jul

When they talk about flakes of manna falling from the sky, I am sure they are talking about tostones de panapén.

Chunks browned lightly

Chunks browned lightly

Panapén or pana is what Puerto Ricans call breadfruit. The back story of how breadfruit got to the West Indies from South East Asia is actually one of the most famous seafaring tales around: The Mutiny on the Bounty.

The LeBron Brothers are the guys in the Plaza de Mercado de Mayagüez (where my great-grandfather had a booth in the early 1900s) who supply me with the good stuff, already peeled and pared!

The LeBron Brothers are the guys in the Plaza de Mercado de Mayagüez (where my great-grandfather brought his produce and my great-uncle had a booth in the early 1900s) who supply me with the good stuff, already peeled and pared!

Captain Bligh, on that ill-fated trip was trying to bring breadfruit to plant in the  Caribbean for cheap slave food.

Wikipedia image

Bligh didn’t quite make it then, but, no quitter our Captain Bligh, he eventually got them to Jamaica (for an fascinating botanical version of events see this Smithsonian article by historian Caroline Alexander)

Smush in tostonera

Smush in tostonera

It is a tall tree with large glossy fingered leaves (that West Indians stick on their heads to reduce blood pressure) and prolific producer of heavy green balls somewhere between the size of a soccer ball and a softball.

Funky tostonera in my late grandmother's house

Funky tostonera in my late grandmother’s house

The flesh is like a potato only denser and creamier and it tastes similar, with perhaps a bit more nuttiness and sweetness, although according to this article it is bland and tasteless. What!?!

Fry, fry again

Fry, fry again

We pare, trim and boil it to match with olive oil and strong fish, mash it with pork cracklings/garlic (or just plain mash it) to go with any meal, and, we fry it into tostones or disks, which to me are far better than any French fry around.

Layer in wax paper and freeze after the first fry to save for later

Layer in wax paper and freeze after the first fry to save for later

I love this stuff and when it is in season and I am in Puerto Rico at the same time, I eat it almost every day!!!

Tostón de panapén

Tostón de panapén

Tostones de panapén

Enough oil to fill the bottom of your frying pan with about ¼” oil (we used peanut; any neutral tasting oil with a high heat capacity will do)

1 lb breadfruit, hard green rind pared off and soft inner seed core removed and cut into 2-3”chunks

Salt for finishing

Equipment

Frying pan

Tongs or other turning device

Splatter screen of some sort for the pan, if you’ve got

Tostonera (two wooden slabs, hinged) or two saucers with relative flat bottoms

Plate lined with paper towels to absorb oil

If freezing, wax paper and gallon freezer bags

Heat oil to sizzling in the frying pan.

Place as many chunks of breadfruit into the pan as will fit comfortably, with at least an inch of space between. Lower heat slightly and brown breadfruit on all sides, about 2-3 minutes, until pale-golden. As the chunks are fully browned on the outside, not cooked on the inside, place them on the paper towels.

Add the next batch of breadfruit to the pan and repeat until finished.

In the meantime, one by one, smush the chunks in the tostonera or between the top and bottom of the saucers until about ½” thick or less. Carefully remove from tostonera and return to paper towels.

(At this point, if you are planning to freeze them for another day, allow the flattened disks to cool, then layer flat in a freezer bag that is resting on a flat plate. In between layers, place a sheet of wax paper or freezer paper. Take as much air out of the freezer bag as possible and place, still laying flat on the plate, in the freezer. Once they are frozen, you can remove the plate and the tostones won’t stick. To finish, thaw and then continue with this next step.)

When you have browned and smushed all your pana, return the disks to the medium-hot oil (only a few at a time) and fry again on both sides until just starting to crisp. Remove, place on fresh paper towel to cool and blot and serve with mayo-ketchup/salt to taste.

 

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4 Responses to “Tostones de Panapén (Fried Breadfruit Disks)”

  1. Mad Dog July 16, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    Brilliant post! Amazingly I don’t think I’ve ever eaten breadfruit, but you’ve convinced me to try it. I believe they sell it across the street too… ;-)

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy July 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

      Thank you! This is one of my favorite foods on earth. I find it astonishing that anyone could call it bland…it is a blank canvas of stodge on which to get creative!

      • Mad Dog July 16, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

        I’m sure one could say the same about potatoes, but a little butter with salt and pepper completely transforms them ;-)

      • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy July 16, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

        Indeed.

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