Italy has its pizzas, Mexico its tacos, enchiladas and quesadillas, Peru its ceviche and Japan its sushi, the Dominican Republic, too, has its culinary king and source of national pride: mangú. Mashed plantain. Platano Power. Ask any Dominican and they’ll tell you, if you haven’t enjoyed a plate of mangú yet, you haven’t eaten Dominican food!
What is the origin of mangú?
Mangú came from the region of the Congo, when there was slave trade, from a similar dish they eat made with boiled plantains. The name of the dish is mangusi. The word mangú comes from this West African word mangusi, which refers to any mashed vegetable from the earth.
The origin of mangú started back in 1916 when the Americans invaded the Dominican Republic, afterwards the soldiers would go into town. Then one day, one of the soldiers wanted to taste some of the mashed plantains he saw the locals eat. When he tasted it, he said “Man this is good” and pointing at it, he said in short “man good!”. The locals thought that the name of the mashed plantains in English was mangú.
Like many traditions that have survived in the Dominican Republic, the cuisine is a blend of Spanish, African and even Taíno influences. This particular type of cuisine is known as comida criolla, which is also found in other Caribbean areas. It adapts classic Spanish and African recipes to indigenous ingredients and Taino cooking methods.
Dominican cuisine is generally heavy on starches, and the commonly used starches include rice, potatoes, yuca and bananas. One of the most popular dishes in the Dominican Republic — and one you’ll find on nearly every restaurant menu — is la bandera (“the flag”). La bandera is a meal of stewed meat over white rice with beans (usually red beans), fried green plantains and salad. Another common dish is a pastelón de plátano maduro, a generous size layered dish of sweet plantains with meat. And the Dominicans’ variation on the Spanish dish of paella is known as locrio, which uses rice colored with achiote instead of saffron.
Bananas and plantains are especially popular in the Dominican Republic, and are commonly boiled, stewed and candied. Mangú is a popular recipe, which consists of boiled and mashed plantains. You can also mash boiled plantains with garlic, olive oil and pork rinds to make mofongo.
What is the difference between mangú and mofongo?
So what is mofongo? Mofongo is a signature dish of Puerto Rico, which is very similar to a Cuban dish called fufu de platano, and the Dominican dish called mangú. The difference between mofongo and fufu de platano is that in mofongo, you mash fried plantains versus boiled plantains. In Puerto Rico, the dish is normally served more complex, as they tend to fill it with beef, shrimp or chicken (mofongo relleno) and at times served in a broth.
How to make mangú?
Mangú is a staple dish of the country, and uses the same unripe plantains boiled in salted water until tender. Then add in 4 tablespoons of butter instead of the olive oil, as well as 2 red onions, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 cup of cold water to mash together with the softened plantains. We like to use some of the water the bananas boiled in vs. new water and also sauté the onions in the olive oil and a little vinegar instead of using raw onions. There are also versions that use milk instead of water. Mangú has a creamier consistency than mofongo. This is traditionally eaten for breakfast along with fried eggs. Which one is better? Both are quite flavorful. Obviously because the mofongo is fried instead of being boiled, it is not as healthy as fufu.
Breakfast for Dominicans is usually a light meal. The same dishes prepared for dinner are also prepared for breakfast, especially when one needs a hearty start to the day. A typical Dominican breakfast could consist of mangú accompanied by scrambled eggs and topped with sautéed onions. A few pieces of boiled cassava or another root is a good substitute for the mangú. This can also be accompanied by a few slices of fried Dominican cheese (its consistency and taste are similar to that of haloumi cheese, but it is made of cow’s milk) and maybe some scrambled eggs a la dominicana. You can also accompany it with a couple of slices of deep-fried salami. A cup of cocoa, or latte is a suitable ending to this breakfast.
Mangú (mashed plantains) is one of Dominicans’ favorite dishes, and yet we sometimes hear that el platano embrutece. It means that eating plantains is associated with intellectual inferiority. The popular extension of this myth is that children who eat cornflakes are more intelligent than those who eat mangú.
Now if you’ve never had mangú, I’ll warn you that the texture may throw you off. It is mashed green plantains, which is actually really similar to mashed potatoes, just slightly thicker. It’s worth the try. Your taste buds will thank you forever!
It’s also important to note that not all mangú is created equally. Some people use butter, while others only use the sauce from the sautéed onions. And then, there are people like me who like to combine both! There are also people who prefer their mangú lumpy while others like it super smooth. Depending on the crowd, you may also be one of those people who likes it dry or a little wet. If you haven’t guessed, there are many different ways to make mangú! Some are tastier than others, but all are usually down right delicious.
After you have had mangú, you really don’t have to eat the rest of the day. It’s the breakfast of kings and champions all in one. After a hefty nap, you can conquer the world!
Mangú also builds tradition, it’s a dish that’s so deeply rooted in culture. Ask any Dominican about this dish and it usually involves memories with families. It’s fairly labor intensive since you literally need to have 3 pots going at the same time, but what traditional breakfast meal isn’t?
Take one bite of this sweet, velvety mash, with a little egg yolk, salami, fried cheese and pickled onion fighting for their place on the fork, and we guarantee, you won’t be thinking about the how-to. You’ll just wonder why you’ve never had this before.
This recipe is validated by our Dominican culinary expert, Chef Carlos Estevez. Chef Carlos is the Caribbean Director for the Professional Gastronomic Council of the Americas, as well as the President for the Bocuse D’Or Academy of the Dominican Republic.
Mangú is a delicious dish of mashed plantains. It is a traditional dish from the Dominican Republic that is often eaten for breakfast.
- 5 green plantains (peeled), diced
- 5 tablespoons butter (or 5 tablespoons olive oil)
- 2 red onions , sliced
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Cold water
- Dutch oven
- In a bowl, combine the onions and vinegar. Add a pinch of salt. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan, boil the plantain in water with 2 pinches of salt, until very tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
- While cooking plantains, heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven.
- Sauté the onions and vinegar (being careful not to burn, as vinegar may splash in oil). Set aside.
- Once plantain is tender, drain and place in a large dish.
- Add the butter or olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of the onion mixture.
- Begin crushing the bananas with a potato masher by gradually incorporating cold water until obtaining a velvety purée.
- To serve, add the onions mixture on top.
- Serve with fried Dominican salami, fried Dominican cheese and fried egg.