Tostones Rellenos de Camarones at Molina's Ranch Restaurant

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When I was looking for lunch in Hialeah, several of the city's best food writers pointed me in the direction of Molina's Ranch Restaurant, a neighborhood favorite that serves consistent, high-quality Cuban food. The menu is so large that a local abogado advertises in it.

So, where do you begin? I suggest the tostones rellenos de camarones ($12). There's a lot of talk about sustainable seafood. For a completely different fish in the sea of discussion, I like my seafood sustained in tostones. This irresistible dish features shrimp stuffed in little edible baskets of double-fried unripe plantains.

The restaurant, though fantastic, is definitely not the best place for a limited lunch break. After ordering and waiting for what seemed like an eternity, while everyone around me was eating the most delicious food, I changed my mind and said, "Para llevar." Getting fried food to go is never ideal, but I was in a hurry.

Out came a piping-hot Styrofoam container in a plastic bag. The contents were so hot and seductive that seconds later, I ate one shrimp-filled plantain in the parking lot and two more while driving.

They were perfectly starchy and lightly sweet, but it was the fresh little shrimp inside the edible cup that stole the show. As you would eat an artichoke, I carefully pulled off pieces of the outer layer of fried plantain in anticipation of what the center held. The sweet and succulent little shrimp in a tomato, onion, and green pepper sauce were housed in a basket pressed with double-fried green plantains. Take that, underwater-basket-weaving class!

The real key to this dish is its form. It's the perfect handheld meal for driving while eating or passed as an appetizer at a party. The menu at Molina's is vast and requires time to peruse, but if you want a dish to start you off right or provide some fuel as you multitask think of what to order next, begin with this appetizer.

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