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Honduran Pollo Ceibeño Redefines the Hearty Plate of Chicken

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Forget amber-colored quarters propped alongside mashed potatoes and watery, over-mayonnaised coleslaw. Honduran restaurants offer their own, far superior version called pollo ceibeño, or ceibeño de pollo depending upon where you order it. Named for and popularized in La Ceiba, a port town on Honduras' north coast, it's a foundation of fried plantains topped with roasted or fried chicken thighs and a heap of cabbage dressed with an array of toppings.

At the base of it all rest the tajadas. Green plantains are sliced into elongated ovals that are bathed in hot oil until their outermost layer hardens to a crunch. At some places, such as Orgullo Catracho on Calle Ocho, they're sliced paper-thin ($10.95). At El Gallito Coffee Shop off Flagler Street, they're far thicker ($9), as though moments from being smashed and refried into tostones.

El Gallito fries its bird with a craggy KFC-style coating that's salty and spicy. Orgullo's crisp-skinned, breadless version is prepared on a rotisserie. Though both spots top their chicken with a mountain of shredded cabbage, Orgullo crowns it all with a chunky tomato salsa and then leaves you free to pile on as much or as little of the lavender curtido -- a spicy pickled mix of onions and carrots -- as you like. El Gallito deploys crema, pink sauce, and a pineapple sauce often found on Colombian hot dogs.

A waitress at Orgullo says almost anything can be prepared a la ceiba, and most final versions depend upon how the cooks learned to make the dish. In Honduras, it's also a common preparation for fish, pulled from the water, cross-hatched, and then slapped into hot oil before being sandwiched between the cabbage and tajadas. Such variations open up a world of possibilities. Dinner could be prepared a la ceiba every night.

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