It sounds crazy, but in the rest of the country, people don't go bananas for plantains. They occasionally eat a banana from their fruit basket or pop one for potassium, but that's it. They have no clue about the banana's more angular, greener, thick-skinned, less sweet, and consumed-when-cooked cousin: the plantain.
Miamians understand the complexity of this glorious fruit. Unripe green plantains are savory, like potatoes. They can be turned into chips or pounded flat and twice fried for tostones. Mashed and mixed with garlic and pork, they make mofongo. Riper, sweeter ones can be caramelized for plátanos maduros.
We also like them in concoctions far more creative than those dishes. Miamians enjoy the Kama Sutra of plantains: stuffed in sushi, arepas, and hot dogs or as vessels for burgers, sandwiches, and shrimp. Here are the top ten plantain dishes to peel into.
See also: Ten Best Comfort Food Dishes in Miami
10. Black Bean and Sweet Plantain Arepa at La Latina
If you are looking for an indulgence that doesn't involve meat or dairy, head to La Latina in midtown. The sweet, greasy plantains are sliced and stuffed in a crisp corn cake with black beans that have been simmered with onions, red peppers, and cilantro. This vegan arepa ($5.95) is a real winner, but you can also try a vegetarian version with cheese and no beans.
9. Tostones at Edge Steak & Bar
Plain old tostones can take a hint from Edge. This edgy version ($8) features avocado mixed with chimichurri atop crisp plantains. What makes it even better? Queso fresco sprinkled on top.
8. Marlin Dog at Sweet Dogs
The geniuses who brought the mac 'n' cheese hot dog to Miami also give us plantains between buns. Sweet Dogs serves the Marlins dog ($6.50) with sweet plantains, banana peppers, a fried egg, chopped onions, guava barbecue sauce, and papitas. There is a lot going on in this dog, but the plantains stand out.
7. Yoyo at Maracuya
Plantains are so versatile they can lie inside the bun or become the bun. The YOLO lifestyle is alive and well in Miami Beach, so if you want to truly live, order the yoyo. Maracuya slices, batters, deep-fries, and stuffs its plantains with braised meat, cheese, and lettuce. You have a choice of chicken, beef, or pork. Go with pork.
6. Fufu From Ola
Fufu isn't normally fancy, but Ola really classes up its version of the starchy staple ($9). Caramelized sweet plantains are smashed them with bits of bacon and caramelized onions for additional sweetness. This version puts boring mashed potatoes with Bac-Os to shame.
5. Plátano Maduro Ice Cream at Azucar Ice Cream Company
Azucar Ice Cream is the coolest spot on Calle Ocho. Along with scooping the usual suspects, this place also churns some regional favorites. Along with avocado, mamey, and guava scoops on rotation, Azucar also offers plátano maduro flavor. Chill out, and lick on!
4. Toston Burger at Pincho Factory
If you don't know the toston burger, you don't know Miami. It has been tweeted about by Rachael Ray, tasted and replicated on the Today Show, and cited on this blog as one of the most outrageous burgers. A well-seasoned patty is topped with jack cheese and homemade cilantro sauce and then placed between fried plantains. Don't wait -- just try it.
3. Plátano Frito at Paseo Catracho
For a mere $3.50, you can have the plátano frito: a sweet, tender whole fried plantain stuffed with refried beans and topped with cream and shredded cheese. If you want to splurge, for 49 cents more, there's a version with ground beef instead of beans. This sweet relleno dish is an edible canoe carrying protein and dairy in one hot and fruity package.
2. Tostones Rellenos de Camarones at Molina's Ranch Restaurant
This dish ($12) has sweet and succulent little shrimp in a tomato, onion, and green pepper sauce housed in a basket pressed with double-fried green plantains. There is a lot of talk regarding sustainable seafood, but one thing is for certain: We like our seafood sustained in tostones. It is a beautiful edible holder you can eat like an artichoke until you get to the shrimp heart in the middle.
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SHOW ME HOW
1. Bacon-Wrapped Plantains at Bread + Butter
Remember when you didn't think there could be a classier appetizer than bacon-wrapped dates? Replace that dried-out fruit with something young, plump, and equally sweet: the plantain. This starter ($6) wraps sweet plantains in house-made bacon, skewers them with a wooden toothpick, and slaps five-spice sticky syrup, a dollop of sour cream, and chives on top. It's mighty good.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst