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Unusual Foods of Puerto Rico

Recipes and staples for the adventurous diner

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Food in Puerto Rico is delicious, exotic, and, these days, rich in creative fusion flavors. But a culinary tradition this diverse obviously comes with its exotic side, and Puerto Rico has its share of dishes that might make you think twice before diving in. Here are just a few examples of the interesting, unusual, and just plain weird foods of Puerto Rico.

Gandinga

Just the name sounds a bit weird, doesn't it? Well, the dish doesn't disappoint on the out-of-the-ordinary scale. Gandinga is a rich, heavy stew made from pig organs. The heart, liver and kidneys all go into the dish, along with less frightening ingredients like tomatoes, capers, and sofrito.

Pork Bits

Continuing with the piggy theme, we move on to pork bits. But this isn't so much a dish as a culinary best practice. Puerto Ricans can't get enough pork; if you've spent more than a day on the island, you'll probably have heard about lechón, or roast suckling pig. But the chow-down on the other white meat doesn't just end with the parts you love. The tail, snout, ear, and skin are all choice cuts of meat, and it's not hard to find one or more of them on a menu of a typical Puerto Rican eatery. One popular item on a local menu is patitas, or pigs' feet in creole sauce.

Mondongo

Ahh, tripe. The gourmand's choice sweetmeat. Tripe in Puerto Rico comes primarily in the form of a stew called mondongo. Add lemon juice, ham, tomato sauce, taro root, plantain, (or yautia, as it's known here) cassava (or yuca), and the right seasoning, and you've got yourself a 'Rican classic. Mondongo is served at many Puerto Rican restaurants around the island, so if you're hankering for some tripe stew, be sure to ask for it.

Tripleta

Okay, so maybe this isn't so unusual ... certainly it's tame compared to some of the other dishes on this list. But I'm still putting the beloved tripleta on this list because a triple-decker sandwich with three types of meat just doesn't come around every day. But that's what this tripleta is all about: beef, ham and chicken crammed together along with lettuce, onion and tomato. It's an island favorite, something people remember as their snack of choice growing up.

As for where to find them, look no closer than your nearest panadería.

Mavi

Let's wash down all those exotic foods of Puerto Rico with the right kind of drink. Anyone from the Caribbean knows what Mauby is; on this island, it's known as mavi. Mavi is a drink made with sugar and the bark or fruit of a certain tree found in the northern Caribbean. Mavi can be drunk fermented or unfermented, fizzy or still. As to what it tastes like, think of it as a kind of root beer with a bitter kick. Also, for the uninitiated, be warned: mavi can go right through you.
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