African is one cuisine that I’m not all that familiar with. Soon after we moved back to Kentucky we learned that a place opened up nearby serving West African food. As you can imagine, I was intrigued, and over the past month or so I’ve finally had the opportunity to try it.
After two visits, I already have a favorite dish – the fried plantains. I’m sure that seems a bit unexciting. You’ve likely tried plantains in African, Latin or Caribbean dishes, and if so, you’ve probably had them fried.
But these are different.
Every time that I’ve had a plantain it has been prepared in a way that adds sweetness to a dish. These plantains are topped with sauteed tomatoes and onions making them much more savory than sweet. The plantains themselves do have that sweet banana flavor, but it’s balanced by the acidic tomatoes and the small amount of added salt.
It’s a simple dish, but completely different and delicious at the same time. I’ve done my best to recreate it without a recipe. This one is right on target. I’ve made it with frozen and fresh tomatoes, and both versions turned out well.
If you’ve never had a plantain, check for them in the exotic fruit area of the supermarket or at an international store. In US supermarkets I usually find them near the mangos and coconuts. Use one that is fully ripe and almost black on the outside. If you buy them early they will ripen on your counter over time, just like a banana. The ones I’ve had ripen a little more slowly, though.
I’ve eaten these plantains as a meal, but they would also be great as a side with something off the grill!
Savory Fried Plantains
1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 plantain, peeled and cut into ¼ inch slices
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
½ medium onion, chopped
Salt to taste
Add the oil to a skillet, and heat to medium-high. Once the oil has melted, place the plantain slices in a single layer in the skillet, cut side down. Cook 1-2 minutes, or until browned and flip. Cook 1-2 minutes more until they are softened, but not mushy. Remove the plantain from the skillet and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb some of the oil.
Add the tomatoes and onions to the hot skillet. Cook about 3 minutes, until the onions are softened and the tomatoes begin to break down. Salt to taste.
Place the plantains in a bowl and top with the onions and tomatoes to serve. Serves 1-2.
Lori Rice is a freelance writer, recipe developer, food photographer and nutritional scientist. Fake Food Free is a creative outlet that allows her to connect with people from around the world who share a love of travel, food culture and cooking.