Grab a Fritura & Experience Delicious Local Food

Kiosks in Pinones

OK, with all this day-tripping around, you will eventually get hungry! And in your travels you’ll see countless people cooking fried food or frituras by the side of the road, at the beaches, and in little kioskos or kiosks. The food certainly smells good. But it looks a little funny. It’s all fried. And you have no idea what it is based on the names. But the food stands are all crowded, so it must be good. Right?

The local food is tasty, even if it’s not the best thing for you. Well we’re going to try to explain some of the local food that you will find at a typical kiosk or road-side stand. That way, when your stomach is growling, you’ll be able to choose a local delicacy with confidence.

Don’t Judge a Book by it’s Cover

First off, don’t let first impressions fool you. Some of these places look terrible, with their peeling paint, dilapidated buildings or just a tent on the side of the road, and using an old metal drum as a fryer. But the food you get at them will be fresh and tasty. I have been told the actual "building" kiosks are regulated by the Department of Health – but I have my doubts. (9/14- they are actually cracking down on some of these places, some close, some fix up, but still new ones just pop up!). I don’t even begin to believe the roadside tents and BBQ’s are regulated by anyone! However, tons of people have eaten at these places everyday for years, and I don’t hear of people getting sick or outbreaks of anything. So why not give it s shot and just experience it!

Forget Your Diet

Second, leave your diets at home. You will not find anything healthy to eat at these places. Puerto Rican food consists of lots of starches (carbohydrates), they are heavy on the salt , and, at these kiosks most of the food is fried (sometimes in lard!). And, there is not a green vegetable in sight! It is all bad for you, so forget your diet and go for it!

Most of tthe places will have a handful of ready-to-go things sitting over the heat or under a light bulb to keep them warm. If you can get a freshly fried or grilled item, it will be better, but even the ones that are sitting out taste good. These are very casual places – you point at what you want and you get in handed to you in a napkin. If you get it to go, they will just plop it in a paper bag. I like to believe it is healthier this way – both the napkin and the bag will help soak up some of the grease! Sometimes they will wrap your food in foil to keep it warm.

I’ll Take One of Those

To help you know what you want (to point at), here is a list of the usual goodies you will find at a kiosk, the beach, or at a road-side stand.

Pinchos

Pinchos – These are usually described as a shish-kabob, so they will look a little familiar to you. Many people just set up a BBQ grill (sometimes right outside their house!) and cook these. They are marinated meat on a stick, usually made with chicken or pork. They usually will come with a piece of bread or maybe tostones on the stick along with the meat.

Pastelillos or Empanadillas – Sometimes called pastellos – these are my favorite. These are the turnover-looking things that are actually filled, deep-fried pies. They can be filled with a variety of things, such as ground beef, chicken, "pizza" or, if you are lucky, lobster, crab, conch, or octopus. Sometimes, the beef/chicken/pizza types are store-bought and contain less filling. If you find a place that sells the seafood ones, these are typically homemade and full of really good stuff.

Tostones are a green plantain, flattened and fried. They are usually salted with Adobo or served with a mayo-ketcup sauce (I would tell you the recipe, but it is a secret!).

Bacalaitos or Bacalao are the large flat round things. They are a deep-fried mixture of salt-cod fish and batter.

Surullitos are the golden fried finger-shaped things. They are made from cornmeal.

Arepas are flour and butter balls, flattened and fried until they puff up, like little dough pancakes. Sometimes they are sweetened with coconut.

Alcapurrias are mashed yautia (a root veggie, like a potato) and green plantains, with some ground meat stuffing inside and then fried. These are larger hotdog-shaped things.

Relleno de papa is a fried ball of mashed potato with ground meat inside. I think that this one needs something to jazz it up a bit. I find it kind of bland.

Empanadillas

Piononos are a sweet plantain filled with seasoned meat, then fried. It has both sweet and salty flavors at the same time.

Mofongo is the larger, ball-shaped thing. It is made of mashed fried green plantains. I like it made from yucca (another root vegetable) better than the plantain variety. Sometimes they are filled, in which case its called mofongo relleno.

Chicharron is fried pork skin. I tried it once, it is not bad, but it is just not something I eat.

Some towns or areas have their own "special" frituras. For example, the town of Humacao has Granos, which is made from rice and it has a tiny piece of cheese in it, and then fried. Or Canovanas has their Macabeo, which is similar to an alcapurria, but made only with plantain that is half mashed, half shredded, then put around the meat filling and fried. So ask for the local specialty!

Ask if they they have a garlic sauce – con ajo. If so, get that on your tostones or mofongo to make it extra yummy!

Something Cold to go with That?

Coco Frio

Pina Colada, a traditional local drink, is a mixture of cream of coconut and pineapple juice, typically blended with ice to make a sweet, slushy drink. You find these with or without rum or con o sin ron.

Coco Frio is the water from a cold, green coconut. They will take a green coconut, cut it open and stick a straw in it. It usually costs about $2. Don’t expect the sweet shredded coconut flavor. This is water of the unripe fruit. It has a slightly salty, just mildly coconut, flavor.

Medalla Light is a popular, local Puerto Rican beer. It is a light beer, and it is only 10 ounces – so it is light on both counts!

 

OK. But What’s in it?

Here are some words that will help you figure out exactly what’s inside that fried thing you’re thinking of ordering.

  • carne – meat, usually pork, but could be beef. If it matters to you then ask!
  • pollo – chicken
  • pulpo – octopus
  • jueyes – land crab
  • camarone – shrimp
  • queso – cheese
  • caracola – conch
  • langosta – lobster

The prices are usually only $1.50 to $3.00 each for these items. Pick a few of what looks good, get them to go with a local beer or pina colada, then walk to the beach and enjoy.

I can’t tell you exactly which kiosk to stop at (though we like the ones along Road 187 in Pinones for home made seafood frituras). There are always some around the beaches, and there are a large number to choose from at Luquillo Beach. For the best ones, go to the ones where there the locals are eating (the busy ones). That will be the best tasting food!

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Comments & Discussion Leave a Comment »

There are 8 comments on this article. Add to the Discussion »

Sorry to read that you didn't like the Relleno de papa, but I make the most delicious Relleno de papa you or anyone will ever taste. I am planning on opening a Kioskos in Isabella P.R. in the near future ( waiting on the premits on the location ). Keep in touch. Will let you know where and when. That way when you are in P.R. you can stop by and taste what one should taste like.

Comment by Ray Ufret on 19 Feb 2016

My blog, my opinions.

Comment by Gwenn on 12 Jan 2015

Was that suppose to be a good review or a biased / subjective personalized of thinking you know P.R is and if u don't like coconuts , please that's what coconut water taste like...thanks for ur input...lol

Comment by Jose on 11 Jan 2015

Well, the article is from 2008...I guess the price has gone up. I will update that price- Thanks!

Comment by Gwenn on 12 Jul 2013

Tell me where you found a $1 coco frio??? everyone seems to be charging $2...

Comment by Maria Procaccino on 11 Jul 2013

This is wonderful! I only wish I had read it before we went to Pinones. I didn't have a clue, even though I thought I spoke Spanish! Thank you once again for explaining everything so clearly :)

Comment by Melanie on 19 Sep 2011

Alcapurrias and empanadillas are the staple fried foods of PR. It's not hard to find a good emanadilla. As long as it's fresh, it's probably pretty good. It mainly comes down to the filling. Alcapurrias are a little trickier. It was hard to find a really good alcapurria while visiting recently. Pinones used to be the spot for alcapurrias, and while they are still easy to find, they just leave you wanting better. We went kiosk hopping, and 10 out of 10 places had Dominicans making the frituras. Maybe they just make them a little different. My aunt, who is a killer cook, used to live in Puerto Rico, but now lives close to me in the states. She makes monumental alcapurrias that create passion, and makes some for me every 2 to 3 months. Goodness. I wish I could take all of you with me. Since I can't, try to one day get some homemade alcapurrias from someone's aunt or grandma, who puts that love and experience into it. If you are a true tourist, that will be really difficult, but if you live in Puerto Rico, or really know people from Puerto Rico, try to make it happen.

Comment by Josh on 29 Aug 2011

This is a great, GREAT introductory article on Puerto Rican street food. Frituras speak for themselves, because it literally translates to fried. I must say that there are some healthy alternatives. Pollo (chicken) BBQ is often found on the street, and is pretty healthy, and often quite good. If you find Pollo "al carbon," they could potentially be even better tasting. Pinchos aren't too bad as far as health either. There is no denying though, that the majority of it is just flat out unhealthy --- fatty and calorie-laiden --- but as long as you don't eat it every day continuously, you should be fine. If you are on vacation, just let your guard down and enjoy. I actually seek out street food when I'm in Puerto Rico, cause who wants to go to Puerto Rico and eat McDonald's, Burger King, and KFC? If you are hungry, and see a truck and/or tent selling food by the side of the road, I would recommend you stop and give it a try. Many more times than not, I go away happy and satisfied. I enjoyed the humor of the recipe for mayo-ketchup. Pretty funny.

Comment by Josh on 13 Jun 2011

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