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Pork: Puerto Rico's Favorite Food

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As far as Puerto Ricans are concerned, pork is the primary white meat. A staple of local comida criolla cooking, pork can be found on most any local menu, and forms the basis or key ingredient in Puerto Rico's best-loved foods.

Take a closer look at the myriad ways you can enjoy pork on the island.

Lechón

Photo © Zain Deane

The hallowed, revered and much-enjoyed lechón asado, or roast suckling pig, is more than a meal; it's practically a rite of passage for anyone who wants to get to know Puerto Rican cooking. A staple of any large gathering, lechón can also be found at restaurants all over the island, but to truly immerse yourself in the experience, you have to visit a lechonera. Lechoneras are ubiquitous in Puerto Rico, and are almost always rustic, basic joints where the food is the main attraction.

To get the full lechonera experience, head to Guavate, a town in Puerto Rico that is known as the Ruta del Lechón for its string of lechoneras. Take Highway 52 south to exit 33 (Guavate), turn left and head up Rd 184. Then pick the place that calls out to you.

Chicharrón

Go hunt for street food at Piñones, the Luquillo Kiosks, or any roadside kiosk, for that matter, and you might see pork rinds larger than anything you'll get at the snack machine. These are chicharrones (pork rinds) are the real deal. Typically marinated in rum, lemon juice, salt and garlic, and then tossed in flour seasoned with adobo and paprika, they are deep-fried and proudly displayed in glass. Like Guavate, this treat also has its sacred ground, in the town of Bayamón. Known as La Ciudad de Chicharrón, or city of Chicharrón, they've been making the stuff for over two centuries.

Tripletas

Tripletas are one of the most sought-after quick meals on the island. Found at stalls, fondas, or local eateries, or at your nearest panadería, a tripleta is a triple-decker sandwich stuffed with: beef, ham and chicken (although I've also seen versions with slices of roast pork, ham and beef, doubling up the pork quotient), made with local bread and served wrapped in aluminum or paper foil.

Chuletas Can Can

Photo © Puerto Rico Tourism Company
A melodic name for a Puerto Rican original, chuletas can can is a butterflied pork chop served with ribs and cuero, or fried pork skin. The dish was invented at a famous Puerto Rican restaurant called La Guardarraya.

Pernil

If you're disappointed at not finding lechón on the menu but you do see pernil, take heart! Pernil, or pork shoulder, has much of the same flavor as lechón asado. A popular item during the holidays, it is seasoned with garlic, black pepper, oregano, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Pernil is also a favorite meat for sandwiches at panaderías.

Gandinga

This one's for the gourmand who likes to try new things. Gandinga is a rich stew that features pig organs including the heart, liver and kidneys. Flavored and cooked with tomatoes, onions and sofrito seasoning, it's a heavy meal and not found in many restaurants.

... And Everything Else

While the above are dishes that feature pork, you can find it in almost every popular local dish. Mofongo, for example, is a mashed mound of green plantain, and it's often served as a side dish or as mofongo relleno, or stuffed mofongo. Guess what one of those stuffings are? Yup. Pork. Similarly, pasteles (a turnover similar to a Mexican tamale but made with plantain instead of corn), frituras or fritters, and a variety of other typical dishes are often made with pork.

Feel free to explore, and discover the wonderful world of Puerto Rican pork!

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