Mofongo is a dish that found its way to the island of Puerto Rico due to the slave trade. Originally from Central and Western Africa, mofongo, also known as fufu in Cuba, was made by mashing any starchy plant or root. Yams, plantains and yuca or cassava are most commonly used. In classic Puerto Rican recipes, the fried starchy plantains or yuca are mashed with crispy fried pork rinds (chicharrónes) to create a desirable flavor. This recipe veers away from that tradition to make a healthier, less calorie-laden mofongo. I have also increased the vegetables from a trace to brimming, and added more shrimp than usual. With each medium shrimp only weighing in at 7 calories, the Diabetic Exchange Diet from the American Diabetes Association states that one exchange of shrimp is equal to 5 medium shrimp.
Puerto Rican food relies on sofrito to provide a unique flavor that is often described as having an intoxicating aroma when cooking. On the West Coast, it is difficult to find some of the ingredients to make an authentic sofrito. We don’t have access to ajies dulces, the sweet peppers that are called for. It’s also hard to find culantro, which has been described as cilantro on steroids because of its stronger flavor. The common solutions are to substitute bell peppers for the sweet peppers and use a ton of cilantro in the recipe. While I have no cure for finding ajies dulces except growing your own, culantro may be found in Vietnamese markets under the name ngò gai’ and with the Mexican spices going by mexican coriander. It has long narrow leaves with spikey edges, so it is sometimes also referred to as sawtooth coriander.
If you choose to buy a premade sofrito, I feel I must warn you that MSG ranks as one of the top ingredients in the Goya brand product. They don’t sell it at my local grocery store, but I have seen it at Fresh and Easy. If I must cheat and use a premade sofrito, I buy the little packets (4 oz.) of Ducal Sofrito Listo and then add my own bell peppers, garlic, onions and cilantro. If you live in an area with a large Puerto Rican population, you can ignore this information because sofrito will be readily available in many forms.
Mofongo de yuca con camarones y jaiba is one of my favorite weekend dinners. It does take effort to make it, and several pots and pans and ramekins, but when the dish is assembled, the mofongo de yuca y jaiba is hearty and bursting with flavorful delight. The broth, swimming with shrimp, vegetables and Spanish olives is light, which gives this meal a perfect balance. I invite you to enjoy this healthier way of making this lovely seafood mofongo de yuca.
(Makes 4 servings)
1 lb. medium shrimp
2 segments snow crab legs
2 medium yuca (yucca root)
3/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chicken broth (free range organic preferred)
1 1/2 tbsp. achiote molido (ground annato)
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup fresh culantro, also called recao, Mexican coriander or ngo gai, chopped (if available – if not, substitute more cilantro)
2 tbsp. crushed oregano
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. capers
1 tbsp. pink Himalayan salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1. Wash the yuca and, if preferred, peel it. You can also peel it after boiling it until soft. Slice the yuca into rounds that are approximately 1 1/2 inches thick and boil until very tender. It will take an hour or more depending on how fresh the yuca is.
2. In a smaller pot, boil the crab legs until pink, about 5-7 minutes. Once boiled, use a crab zipper to remove the meat, or place the crab in a plastic bag and crush the shells with a hammer to release the meat. Remove all of the crab meat from the shells and set aside.
3. Peel the shrimp and refrigerate. Preheat oven to 350°.
4. Peel the garlic cloves. Crush them by applying pressure with the handle of a knife. Crushing releases oils and distributes the flavor of the garlic. Chop the crushed garlic.
5. Chop the onions, peppers, cilantro and culantro. Refrigerate the chopped vegetables until the yuca is boiled.
6. Once the yuca is boiled and peeled, mash it with 1/2 cup olive oil, crab pieces and achiote molido. Add more olive oil if necessary, making sure to reserve 1- 2 tbsps.
7. Spoon the mashed yuca mixture into small ramekins or baking dishes. The yuca mixture can be heaped over the top rather than even with the edge of the cup. Press down to cake the yuca together.
8. While the yuca is baking, heat the butter, reserved olive oil and chicken broth in a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, onion, cilantro, culantro and spices and reduce heat to simmer slowly for 10 minutes.
9. Add the chopped peppers, olives and capers and shrimp. Continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes, stirring to make sure the shrimp cooks on both sides.
10. Remove the baked yuca from the oven. Let sit for 5 minutes.
11. In the center of a wide, shallow bowl, invert the ramekin and tap lightly so the yuca will loosen and remain in the bowl. If any of the baked yuca mixture sticks to the ramekins, scoop it out and shape it into a mound in the center of the bowl.
12. Ladle the broth with vegetables and shrimp over the mofongo de yuca.
13. Enjoy this amazing Puerto Rican treat that’s been made over to be healthier!
Note: For dairy-free mofongo, simply replace the butter with coconut oil. This dish is naturally gluten-free.
Mofongo will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
This recipe meets paleo diet guidelines.
For eating a low-fat diet or following guidelines for diabetes, cut the olive oil in half and replace with low-fat chicken broth. As always, follow the advice of a registered nutritional expert or your medical doctor when eating for a special medical condition.