San Juan food - always to remember
San Juan prides itself on traditional cocina criolla (Caribbean Creole food) so much so, that restaurants in the city that serve this cuisine are recognized by the government. Puerto Rican cuisine uses local ingredients blended with influences over the years (Spain, the Americas) to create truly authentic food. At finer restaurants you can find typical island seafood: Caribbean lobster (sweeter than its Maine cousin), red snapper, conch (either fried in fritters or stuffed). The most popular starch is rice, which is served in soups and alongside fish, but also found in the slow-simmered, Puerto Rican specialty arroz con pollo (chicken with rice.) The real culinary attraction is found most often with the street vendors who sell foods, frozen treats, and deep fried snack foods. Fried cod fritters, croquettes with banana and pork, and mini meat and cheese turnovers (called pastelillos) are popular with the locals. Tropical fruit is abundant on the island and serves as the base for many drinks, both fresh juices and alcoholic beverages (though those are mainly for tourists). Fresh pineapple, mango, coconut, lime, and papaya are used in cooking and baking as well. For a unique fruit treat, suck on a tamarind popsicle and experience the exotic sweet/salty/sour flavor the Caribbean favorite has to offer. For a savory fruit dish, nibble on tostones: fried, crushed, and then re-fried plantains. Plantains are a cousin of the banana, though starchier, and are found alongside roast pork, rice and beans, or as a bar snack. For java junkies, or anyone seeking a buzz-worthy treat, sample Puerto Rican coffee. The island gives other coffee-producing countries a run for their money, since they grow Arabica beans (the kind used in Italian coffee, for example) as opposed to Robusta beans (the beans used for mass-produced and many American coffees.) The climate, roasting techniques, and soil create the perfect cuppa'. The best way to enjoy the coffee would be with a straight up espresso, but for the less inclined it can be mixed with hot milk for a traditional cafe con leche.
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