What is chifrijo?
Chifrijo is a Costa Rican contemporary dish. It is very common in bars or canteens, as well as in restaurants around Costa Rica. A favorite bar snack of Los Ticos, chifrijo has its chips and salsa amped up by crispy pork and a classic Costa Rican condiment Salsa Lizano.
Unlike other dishes featured here on 196 flavors, chifrijo has been in existence only since the nineties and its origin comes from the bars of the capital, San José in Costa Rica. Its name comes from deconstructing its main ingredients CHIcharrones & FRIJOles.
Although it can be used as a main dish, its origin was as an appetizer or to “nibble”. As in its composition, the beans and cooked rice come in, where they are mixed with the fried pork rinds, which are agglutinated with the famous pico de gallo sauce. But pieces of tortillas are added and they sometimes include avocado slices.
Nowadays, it’s very common to see it at farmers markets, street vendors, fairs and carnivals, and now in fast food joints. In reality, it is a simple dish that is served as an anytime-snack or meal and it is usually made in massive quantities (by the gallons) for family affairs like birthdays, weddings or any excuse to party. Like Mexican menudo, it is also known as a remedy to cure hangovers in its soup form with lots of hot chilies added.
What is the origin of chifrijo?
According to its creator Miguel Ángel Cordero Araya, owner of a bar in San José in the capital of Costa Rica, he came one day to his bar with a desire to eat something different so he went to the kitchen where he asked the cook what they had to “nibble on”. Without waiting for the cook’s answer, he began to prepare a dish. He used tender beans with broth, cooked rice, chili peppers, chimichurri or pico de gallo, fried pork rinds, and other things. The cook tried it after him, and decided to offer it to a regular customer, who approved it. From then on, it continued in the rest of that decade of the last century, passing even to the other establishment of the property of Cordero making this recipe popular.
Among the clientele of Cordero’s Restaurant, stood the tall figure of a woman who knew how to win the admiration, appreciation and sympathy of the people of Costa Rica, from the different public positions she held. This was Dr. Anna Gabriella Ross, who liked to get to that bar to have a couple of drinks of chauite and taste the delicious chifrijo. It was Dr. Ross, who insisted again and again that Cordero, finally decided to patent his delicious invention, which was also achieved thanks to the mediation of Miguel Solórzano, who took care of the legal procedures and then presented said documents before the Land Registry.
After Cordero’s chifrijo was duly registered and patented, many copies have appeared, but none has the original recipe that can only be tasted at Cordero’s Bar. Since the beginning of the 21st century, this recipe is included as one of the typical recipes of Costa Rica along with the tamal de cerdo and ceviche and the pot of meat (specific variant of the sancocho of other Latin American countries), rice with chicken and others.
How to make chifrijo
The original recipe of Miguel Ángel Cordero only consisted of beans with their broth, rice, chicharron in pieces, pico de gallo (tomato, garlic, cilantro, chopped onions and lemon juice), tortillas (tortillas cut into triangular pieces and fried) and spices to taste. However overtime, as this recipe have gotten popular, it has undergone some variations.
The recipe is a conglomeration of products originating in Central America with those brought by the Conquistadores. However, this mixture, fundamental of beans with pork rinds and adding something else (sauces), has many variations throughout the area of the region. That is why there is the version of beans with pork rinds from Guatemala, declared an intangible cultural heritage of that nation. There is the machuquillo from Cuba, where they mix the ground chicharrones with cooked plantains. On the other hand, there is the use of pico de gallo, a sauce whose ingredients have fewer variants than the names from the Rio Bravo until after the Isthmus of Panama. And the same goes for tortillas, which are named after this area and then exchanged for arepas in South America. Of course, in this last case they receive support from the Old World, with a little wheat flour. Therefore, it can be considered as very logical that the Cordero patent for this recipe arose, since the Mexican tacos have spread north and south of their place of origin.
The chifrijo controversy
Chifrijo comes with no lack of controversy. Members of the Cordero family, from the Cordero’s restaurant in Tibás, tried to register the word chifrijo as if it were a commercial brand. In October 2014, several lawsuits were filed against restaurants that have used the term chifrijo on the menu despite the fact that in 2006, the Industrial Property Registry denied the registration of this word as a trademark on the grounds that it is inappropriate to register the name of a product using a common designation. In November 2014, a civil judge dismissed in all its extremes the lawsuit filed by the Cordero family against several commercial establishments that use the word chifrijo on their menus.
First, chifrijo is a portmanteau, which is a blend of two (or more) words or morphemes into one new word, chicharrones (fried pork rinds/skin) and frijoles (beans). It’s a layered dish, with rice, red beans, pork rinds, freshly chopped tomato or pico de gallo and served with fried tortilla chips. It is also served with corn tortillas and bread. The Mexicans have been serving this style of dish (with pinto and/or black beans) on a plate or in a bowl with corn or flour tortilla for a very long time. Costa Rica gave it their signature with the pork rinds.
In the beginning, the common red bean was used, but when variants appeared, the bean cubace (large beans) predominated in the taste of the people. It is very common to add tomato sauce and/or mayonnaise, as well as avocado, guacamole or hot peppers. Usually, the presentation of the dish is the same, in a bowl or soup bowl, with beans in a broth, rice and topped with the pico de gallo, the tortillas and avocados. It should be served immediately after having prepared it and at a warm temperature. It can be accompanied with drinks such as beer, natural soda, soft drinks or some sweet cocktail.
Costa Ricans usually add a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a drizzle of Salsa Lizano. The latter is popular in Costa Rica and can best be described as a mild but flavorful alternative to hot sauce.
- 1 lb dry frijoles cubaces (large red kidney beans), soaked for 12 hours
- 2 stems cilantro
- 2 scallions , chopped
- 1 red bell pepper , finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic (with skin)
- 2 cloves garlic , crushed
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 ripe tomatoes , peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
- 1 red onion , thinly sliced
- 1 small bunch cilantro , finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Juice of 2 limes
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 10 oz. chicharrón (pork rind), cut into pieces
- 10 oz. pork shank , cut into large cubes
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 2 tablespoons water
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 white onion , chopped
- 4 cloves garlic , crushed
- 1 red bell pepper , chopped
- 1½ cup white rice
- 3 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Jalapeño pepper , sliced
- Avocado (ripe), sliced
- Corn tortillas , grilled or fried
- A few slices lime
Drain the beans, and add into a pressure cooker.
Cover them with water and add 2 tablespoons olive oil, cilantro, 1 scallion, whole garlic cloves, and half of the bell pepper.
Heat over low heat and mix for 5 minutes.
Then lock the pressure cooker and cook, on medium-low heat, for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, open the pressure cooker and check the cooking of the beans. If they are not tender enough, close the pressure cooker and continue cooking for 15 minutes
While cooking the beans, in a frying pan, prepare a sofrito with the remaining olive oil, the crushed garlic, the remaining scallion, the second half of the bell pepper, salt and pepper.
When the beans are cooked, open the pressure cooker, add this sofrito mixture to the beans and simmer for 15 minutes over low heat.
Mix all the ingredients. Marinate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
Mix salt, pepper, paprika, thyme and oregano and coat each piece of pork with this mixture.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven and brown all the pieces of pork without drying them (add a little water if they are turning too dry).
Once the pieces of pork are cooked, place them on a plate lined with paper towels.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the rice and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the water and salt and cook for about 10 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
The chifrijo is served in bowls or soup plates.
First put a layer of rice, then a layer of beans and a little of their sauce, a layer of pork and finally the pico de gallo.
The result is hot and cold.
Serve with grilled or fried corn tortillas, sliced avocado, jalapeño pepper and slices of lime.