Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Short Social Fiction: Adventures of Tupi 30

Tupi arrived in Santo Domingo. The sun was out and the weather was nice. It was not too humid but it was warm. Tupi waited almost 1 hour from landing and going through customs to get his luggage. The luggage was rather bulky and heavy due to the gifts. Tupi had a porter help him with the luggage as it was too heavy for him. Luckily, Tupi did not need to go far as Alex was waiting for him outside.

"Do you want to have the Hatian Experience or the Tourist Experience?" Alex asked Tupi.

"Um... The cheapest method? The money saved can be used for other good stuff." Tupi said.

"Are you sure?" Alex said. "It is a pretty bad ride."

"As long as I can get on the bus with the luggage and nothing gets lost." Tupi said.

"The comfort is the issue, not theft." Alex said.

"How bad can it be?" Tupi asked.


Tupi got up the bus and sat beside a chicken. There was instant regret of Tupi's face. "7 hours you say?" Tupi asked and Alex laughed and nodded. "A ride you will never forget." Alex said.

Alex has taken the bus several times. It is often over crowded, hot and uncomfortable. However, they pass by several areas with very good local food. The bus was not really an express bus. It has multiple stops in the city. At this time, everyone was hot and sweaty and Tupi was squished and the bus was still letting more people up. There were even people hanging on to the outside.

Fortunately, many people got down at the last stop where the bus will run express to other towns. Alex was quite familiar and as he sees Tupi hot and sweaty, Alex passed Tupi a bottled water and Tupi gulped it down. "You need to pace yourself, next stop is 2 hours where we break for lunch."

The trip outside town was not too bad. The bus was traveling fast enough for a breeze to come in, but the roads were bad and the ride was bumpy. It was like clockwork, and 2 hours later, the bus stopped at a restaurant where the passengers had a 30 minute break for food while the driver rests and refuel the bus.

The bus had a stop at Barahona. This was a very busy city with lots of cars and short buildings. "Wow, this is so far from Santo Domingo, yet so busy? What's going on here?" Tupi asked.

"This is Barahona, one of the most important cities in Dominican Republic. They make a lot of sugar here, and there are lots of Eco-Tourism here." Alex said. "Come, let me show you a good restaurant for Dominican Food." Tupi looked around, this place looks busy and old, and he did not really feel like eating as he was tired after the long bus ride.

Alex spoke in Spanish and ordered some food. Tupi had a bowl of soup and an egg shaped dish served in a wooden cup. He was hesitant to try, but it smells really good. When Tupi break a little of the food to have it with his soup, the mixture of flavor blew his mind.

"What the hell is this?" Tupi suddenly was excited about the trip as his appetite arrived. "This stuff is great!"

"This is Sancocho and Mofongo" Alex said. "Its a very traditional Dominican Dish."

"Oh Mofongo... Where have you been all my life?" Tupi said. "You never lived until you have this..."

"Well, I'm glad you liked it, when you are leaving, I'll bring you to a more popular shop that serves better Mofongo." Alex said.


What is mofongo?

Mofongo is a dish made with plantains: fried, mashed with garlic, shaped into a ball and served in a pilón (the mortar bit of the pestle and mortar).

Classic mofongo is made with chicharrón (fried pork rind). It can be eaten for lunch or supper and is also a popular snack for late-night revelers.

What is Sancocho?

Sancocho is a dish that is usually prepared for special occasions. Its preparation is long and it contains many ingredients. However, the time it takes to prepare is the time best enjoyed with friends, while drinking a little rum or a cold beer.

Classic Sancocho is made with beef only (usually flank, or similarly inexpensive cut) and it is a Dominican comfort food.

Ingredients for the mofongo 
1 cup oil for frying (corn is ok)
5 unripe plantains peeled, cut into ¾" [2 cm] slices
1 lb chicharrón cut into 1″ [2.5 cm] pieces
2 tbsp garlic mashed
1 1/2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)

Chicharrón is basically deep fried pork belly in its own fats. 
If you really want good Chicharrón, it is a bit of work.

Instructions for Chicharrón 
1) Rub the skins of the belly with baking soda.
2) Cut the belly into the right size and rub salt on them. 
3) Place in refrigerator overnight to dehydrate. 
4) Rinse the pork belly and pet dry with towel. 
5) Place segments of pork belly in a wok with a bit of water, set it over the stove, and let the fat render out over the course of a few hours.
6) When the water evaporates, turn up the heat as the oil from the pork has already out of the pork and watch the pork deep fry in its own fats. (3-5 mins)
7) Transfer the chicharrones to a plate lined with paper towels to blot the extra fat. Toss with salt and your choice of seasonings. The chicharrones will remain crispy for many hours.

Instructions for mofongo 
1) Heat oil over medium heat and fry the plantains till golden brown all over (3-5 mins).
2) Using a pilón (wooden mortar) mash the plantain, garlic, and chicharrón together (You might have to do it in small batches and mix in the end).
3) Shape into 6 balls and place in small bowls.
4) Serve garnished with Sancocho .

Prep time is about 15 mins and cook time is about 1.5 hours. (If Chicharrón is already cooked before prep)

Ingredients for the Sancocho
1 lb beef for stews flank, chuck, or round [0.45 kg]
1 lb pork sausage longaniza or chorizo [0.45 kg]
1 lb pork for stews belly, or chump end [0.45 kg]
1 lb chicken [0.45 kg]
1 lb pork ribs [0.45 kg]
1 lb bones from a smoked ham [0.45 kg]
Juice of two limes
1 tsp cilantro or parsley chopped
1/2 tsp oregano powdered
1 tsp garlic mashed
1 1/2 tsp salt 4 tbsp oil corn, peanut, or canola
2.5 quart water [2.5 liters]
1/2 lb yam cut into 1-inch pieces [0.23 kg]
1/2 lb West Indies pumpkin (Calabaza) cut into 1-inch pieces [0.23 kg]
1/2 lb taro yautia (or what ever Taro you can find) cut into 1-inch pieces [0.23 kg]
3 unripe plantains 2 cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 lb tapioca cut into 1-inch pieces [0.23 kg]
2 corn cobs cut into 1/2-inch slices

Instructions for Sancocho
1) Cut all the meat into small pieces.
2) Coat the meat with the lime juice (except the pork sausage).
3) Place the beef in a large bowl and add the cilantro, oregano, garlic, and half a teaspoon of salt.
4) Rub meat to cover with the spices.
5) Marinate for at least half an hour.
6) In a large pot heat the oil over medium heat, add the beef and stir (be careful with hot oil splattering).
7) Cover and and simmer for 10 minutes.
8) Add a few tablespoons of water if it looks like it might burn.
9) Add the pork and simmer for 15 minutes, adjust water when necessary.
10) Add the rest of the meat to the pot (except for the chicken) and simmer for another 15 minutes, adding tablespoons of water as needed to prevent it from burning.
11) Add the remaining meat and simmer for another 5 minutes, adding tablespoons of water as needed to prevent it from burning.
12) Add 2 quarts of water to the pot and bring to a boil.
13) Add the yam, taro and tapioca and the two plantains that you had previously cut.
Simmer covered for 15 minutes. Grate, or scrape with the knife the remaining plantain to make it into a pulp, add to the pot.
14) Add all remaining ingredients (minus the salt) and add water as it becomes necessary to maintain the same level.
15) Stir regularly to avoid excessive sticking.
16) Simmer until the last ingredients you added are cooked through.
17) Season with salt to taste.

Cook time and prep time is about 1 hour each.

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