Tasting Puerto Rico

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Having tried 5 other Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico certainly has its own unique style when it comes to food. From street eats to high end restaurants, simple does it. With a large family on the move, I was worried that it would be hard to please everyone. Surprisingly, my Dad’s stubborn Chinese taste bud did not ask for Chinese food once during the whole 6 day trip! Apparently, the fried and the stewed conquered him.

Our first island meal started in La Parrilla, one of the many Kioskos along the road of Luquillo near where we stayed. Kioskos are basically small eateries that you can find in many places across Puerto Rico. They are usually right next to each other, providing many food options and are typically very inexpensive. This one seems to be the largest closest to us and has many different varieties.

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Octopus Salad. Very refreshing. Having tried to cook it many times at home, I know how hard it is to make it not rubbery so I tend to order it when I dine out to avoid the hard work.

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Mofongo De Yuca Y Camarones En Salsa De Queso Gouda. It is essentially a cooked mashed plantain with shrimp and cheese sauce. Mofongo is said to be the staple of Puerto Rico cuisine.  The plantains are first fried and mashed and then stuffed with filling. We also tried the other types with beef or seafood, had to say this one is my favorite.

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Even though we were stuffed, I shall never leave without dessert. Cuatro Leches, four milk cake! The cake was soaked in sweetened milk and a little bit rum, amazingly moist and dense. That concludes the first meal, a pretty good overview of the common local food. Annabelle and her little cousin loved their meal.

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Our first day visit was to the Rain Forest, beautiful scenery wherever we looked.

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The culinary adventure took place right after the waterfall. We drove 2+ hours (mostly due to wrong directions given by me) into Cayey and searched for this place called El Rancho Original. This is only one of the many places in the little village that dedicated to roasting whole pigs and said to be the best. By the time we finally got there, we were literally the last customers right before they closed the shop. The food was authentic with things like blood sausage, cassava, yam as sides. The roasted pig was indeed tender and flavorful, although I’m not sure if I would drive another 2 hours for it again 🙂

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Our second visit was to the Old San Juan. It is charming yet majestic with its Fort.

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Just a couple of blocks away from the Fort, we stopped for a “quick” lunch. The menu was very different and interesting with cheese crepes, conch salad among many others on the menu. With the ordering power invested in me by my family, we ended up with dozens of plates..

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Cold coconut with rum. Do I need to say anything 🙂

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Covered tostones with Lobster Creole. Tostones are also popular local food made with twice cooked plantain. The cover was cheese crisp.  The only thing I didn’t think through was that each of the plate came with tostones as sides, so we had many leftovers for the next day breakfast.

To complete the lunch, we stopped by a local coffee shop, Caficultura, just a few blocks away for the delicious and artistic coffee posted above as well as this coffee dessert martini.

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That was when we decided to skip dinner.

The highlight of the trip I was waiting for – Pikayo. Learned it from, again, Andrew Zimmer’s Show, I had to try it. It was said to be creative and artistic. They offer two tasting menus, each comes with 5 dishes. One is classic and one is Puerto Rican. There were 6 of us adults so we were able to order both of them for each couple and try each, good plan, eh! 🙂 Some of the dishes were inspiring and tongue pleasing, some were just ok. Here are the ones that I liked.

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Mini pork belly burger. Just the size alone makes me joy. Can’t wait to make my own versions!

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Foir Gras with Truffle honey and plantain. It was the perfect bite, a little less would not be satisfying, little more would be too much. The aroma was incredible. Everyone’s favorite of the night.

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Cheese soufflé with Guava Sauce. Great combination of salty, cheesy and sweet.

We made two attempts to Pinones which was recommended by the locals as one of the best street food places next to beautiful beach. The first attempt was at night, not successful, as all the places were closed except a couple. The road was all dark at night, so, we didn’t even try to make a stop . We learned our lesson and returned on Saturday noon. Still not as many opens as I would expect. Not sure if it is because it’s not the high season yet. We managed to find one with the most customers as a indication that it must be the best. Ordered a dozen of food with names I might never be able to repeat. They are all deep fried, not bad, just not as good as I had hoped.

The trip to Bacardi Factory saved the day. The tour was easy, relaxing and free. It was fun to know some of the histories behind the Rum maker and a few recipes for making basic cocktails. The rum tasting was quite fun.

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Our other non-culinary adventures included snorkeling and biobay Kayaking. The snorkeling trip was the most fun. It started with speed mini boating, then snorkeling and last stop on the tiny island next to Palominos. The island was all sandy beach and perhaps the size of a gym. It was once used for the movie Pirates of Caribbean. It was simply the cutest island I have ever experienced. The biobay trip was somewhat disappointing. We were expecting incredible luminous bay but only saw subtle sparks when waving the water. Kayaking through pitch black tree tunnel was unforgettable but also nerve racking to me. Fortunately, our guide chained our boat to his to get us out there, not our best moment but at least we made it safe 🙂

All in all, we had a great time, you can’t go wrong with sandy beaches and tropical wind.

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