The cultural influence of The African diaspora following the enslavement of millions of West Africans can be seen all across Latin America. As Black History Month comes to an end, we want to take a minute to acknowledge and appreciate the African history of Latin cultural cuisine.
Many might not realize that cultural dishes that we so closely associate with a particular country, like mofongo in Puerto Rico and Mangú in the Dominican Republic, have distinct African roots. Yara Simón goes deeper into the history of dishes from Mexico, Brazil, Central American and more in this piece written for Remezcla.com
Fufú is a dish with origins in Angola with the Yoruba people traditionally made with mashed yams, explains Cruz Miguel Ortíz Cuadra in his book, Eating Puerto Rico: A History of Food, Culture, and Identity. Enslaved Angolans who were taken to Puerto Rico (and other parts of the Caribbean) used the same technique, mashing plantains and other starchy root vegetables with a pestle eventually evolving into dishes like mofongo and mangú. The word mofongo itself is thought to come from the Angolan term mfwenge-mfwegne meaning “a great amount of anything at all” (Cuadra, 2013).
Thanks to the Afro-Latin Diaspora in the US, these African-influenced recipes continue to spread and evolve through Latin foods. LARiA’s original home, New York City, is a hot spot for a variety of Latin restaurants serving these tasty classics, as the case of the mofongo bowls served by our partner restaurant, Que Chevere. Here in our new home, New Orleans, the Latin population is far less than that of NYC, but sure enough, you can still find foods of the Latin Diaspora, some with interesting, healthy twists.
We’ll leave you with this beautiful example: a trifongo stuffed with seafood ceviche over greens with mango dressing at Carmo in the Warehouse District neighborhood of NOLA.
The trifongo is a newer iteration of the Puerto Rican mofongo. The mofongo is made with fried green plantains, mashed in a pilón with garlic and chicharrón (pork rinds). The trifongo combines the green plantain with yucca and, in this case, ripe, sweet plantain. Other versions are prepared with breadfruit as the third component. This healthier iteration serves the trifongo over salad, as opposed to rice, and brings in other healthy Latin dishes, as in the case of the ceviche.
So what is your favorite Afro-Latin dish? Share with us in the comments! And let us know if you have a favorite Latin restaurant serving this dish.
Ortiz-Cuadra, C. M. (2013) Eating Puerto Rico: A History of Food, Culture, and Identity. The University of North Carolina Press.