Sweet plantains with lime and spices (Costa Rica)

Costa Rica is a small country in Central America. A 2009 study proclaimed it as both the happiest and greenest country in the world. In general it ranks pretty high in various human development indices. It is a former Spanish colony, but acquired its independence already in the 1800s. After a bloody civil war, in 1948 the country abolished its military and still has no proper army. Costa Rica is known for its excellent healthcare and attracts many healthcare tourists. The country is highly biodiverse with a tropical climate, most of the year being extremely rainy.

Costa Rica is also well-known for producing coffee and bananas. Its most traditional dish is rice and beans, gallo pinto or “spotted rooster”. It is often eaten with salsa lizano, a commercial sauce somewhat like HP sauce. It’s not a chili sauce and Costa Rican food in general is usually not very spicy. Meals also often contain chicken, eggs, white cheese, tortillas and fried plantains. A peculiar favorite is Russian salad (made with beets, potatoes, hard boiled eggs and mayo). Many vegetables are eaten too, and fresh fruit is very popular, especially as juices. Sugar cane is also used for making both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

I haven’t cooked any plantain dishes for Vegventures before and the reason is the lack of interesting recipes. At least from my Google searches it seems like while ubiquitous in most South American and Caribbean countries, most recipes are very simple, e.g. variations of tostones. This plantain dessert caught my attention. It was the first time I bought plantains, which are similar to bananas but more starchy and the banana flavour is milder. I recommend using very ripe plantains that have gone black, since I feel the ones I used could have been riper.

The dish was okay, probably better if the plantains were softer, but I’m not sure if the problem was my not-optimally-ripe plantains or that I didn’t cook them long enough. It would probably taste better with vanilla sauce, whipped “cream” or vegan ice cream. While intrisically vegan this is not a healthy dessert by any means, being high in both fat and sugar. Looking at the photo of the original dish I think it may have used brown sugar, which did cross my mind when cooking, but I didn’t have any light brown sugar, only muscovado.

(A little coconut for decoration, seemed fitting enough even though the recipe contains no coconut.)

Sweet plantains with lime and spices

Costa Rican plantains

4-6 ripe plantains, cut into very thick slices
1/2 cup/1.2 dl margarine (or coconut butter)
1 1/2 cups/3.6 dl sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
0.5 tsp nutmeg
0.25 tsp ground cloves
juice of 1 lime
2 cups/4.8 dl water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a large pan, melt the margarine and sauté the plantains on medium heat until golden. Add 1 cup of sugar and all of the seasonings. Stir for 1 minute. Add the water and sprinkle on the remaining sugar.

Reduce heat to low and cook until the liquid is reduced and caramelized. Serve hot, or let cool. Makes at least 4-6 portions.

3 Responses to “Sweet plantains with lime and spices (Costa Rica)”

  1. 1

    Näyttääpä herkulliselta! Ruokabanskuja tuli usein syötyä Venezuelassa asuessa,ja ihastuin niihin.Täällä niitä joskus löytää torilla ,mutten ole aikoihin niistä mitään valmistanut.

  2. 2

    I adore your website!!!! I even blogged about it. :) Love it so much, keep up the wonderful work!!

  3. 3

    Oh, I see. Thank you very much. :->

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