Food Puerto Rico:

The Food of Puerto Rican

The island nation of Puerto Rico is officially a territory of the United States. Puerto Rican cuisine has evolved from several strong influences, including the original people, the Tainos, and the Spanish who drove most of the natives out and enslaved whoever was left. African and overall Caribbean influence is also reflected in the cuisine of the island, which has been shaped significantly by its climate and geology.

Cocina criolla, one of the main cuisine styles particular to the island, enjoys deep roots, extending far back to the native Tainos and Arawaks. Their culinary traditions were based on tropical fruits, native vegetables, seafood, and corn. With the Spanish came a host of other ingredients that expanded the criolla style. These included olive oil, rice, wheat, and meats, such as pork and beef. As enslaved African people were imported for the sugar cane plantations, their culinary traditions took root as well, and their contributions, which included taro and okra, became assimilated into the whole of criolla cuisine.

Many of the island's main dishes are seasoned with adobo and sofrito. These are spice mixtures that impart the flavors the island is so well known for. Adobo, which can vary from cook to cook, or from manufacturer to manufacturer, generally consists of black peppercorns, oregano, salt, garlic, olive oil, and lime juice. When bought prepared in powdered form, most include salt, powdered garlic, citric acid, pepper, oregano, turmeric, and MSG, which is a good reason to make your own. While generally used for seasoning meats, it is considered a sort of all-purpose seasoning mixture.

Sofrito is made from onions, garlic, cilantro, peppers, and it often includes achiote, which is from the seeds of the annatoo plant. This seasoning helps to produce a bright yellow color in the finished product. This, too, is used in a variety of dishes, ranging from meat dishes to soups to beans and rice.

Single pot dishes, or stews, are common to Puerto Rican cuisine. These are often made of meats and flavored with a variety of spices and ingredients in addition to adobo and sofrito. Among the extras are Spanish olives stuffed with pimiento, sweet chili peppers, capers, potatoes, onions, garlic, fresh cilantro, and occasionally raisins.

Chicken with rice is a dish that has become a Puerto Rican specialty, with many families having their own recipe, handed down from generation to generation. Chicken is a main ingredient of many criolla dishes, and while these meals enjoy a host of seasonings, they are rarely what could be termed hotly spiced.

Naturally, seafood plays an important part of the island cuisine. Fried fish is often served with a special sauce made of olives, olive oil, onions, pimientos, capers, tomato sauce, vinegar, garlic, and bay leaves. Broiled, steamed or grilled fish is lightly seasoned, sometimes not seasoned at all, during the cooking process and served with a splash of lime juice with just a hint of garlic.

Puerto Rican cuisine has many facets that have arisen from the island's long, complex history. The blend of native culinary traditions with those of the European tyrants and the enslaved African populations that they brought with them has resulted in a unique and flavorful cuisine that is beloved by many.

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