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Frying Ripe Plantains

A Guide to ripe plantains and how to fry them.

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Fried plantains
Aurora Michelle/Flickr

Fried Ripe Plantains are served with meals mainly as a side dish or as a snack. Throughout the length and breath of the Caribbean, Fried Ripe Plantains can be found on all tables. Some people make it to accompany every meal while others make it to accompany specific meals. For example, in the South American country of Guyana, Fried Ripe Plantains are traditionally served with one of their national dishes, Cook-Up Rice (rice, beans, and meat cooked with coconut milk).

In other parts of South America and in places like Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and the Eastern Caribbean Islands, Fried Ripe Plantains are made to go along with any dish, and in many cases, it is made and eaten daily.

Frying ripe plantains is easy, however, before attempting to make this favorite Caribbean side dish and snack, it is important to understand what is happening during the cooking process in order to execute the dish properly.

Plantains go through various stages of ripeness. The varying degrees of ripeness is evidenced by the color of the plantain's skin which can go from cream to bright yellow to dull yellow with patches of black to completely black. For excellent Fried Ripe Plantains, you'll want to choose a plantain that the skin is dull yellow with patches of black or completely black - this is when a plantain is at its peak of ripeness. A plantain at its peak of ripeness has exchanged all of its starch for natural sugars; frying it at this stage of full ripeness brings all the sugar to the surface, hence the brownness of fried ripe plantains and the wonderful taste notes from the caramelization. When frying ripe plantains, you are coaxing the sugars to the surface of the plantains. This is another reason why people opt to cut the ripe plantains diagonally - it provides a larger surface for caramelization.

Apart from choosing a plantain at its proper stage of ripeness, there are three other important things to take into consideration when frying ripe plantains.

The pan: use a non-stick skillet as this will aid in the easy release of the cooked plantain from the pan. Remember that sugar burns quickly and sticks. Given the high sugar content in the ripe plantains, a non-stick skillet is an excellent pan-choice.

Oil: use a neutral tasting oil such as canola or vegetable oil. The amount of oil used for frying should be just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Too much oil will cause the plantains to soak up the oil resulting in soggy plantains. After frying each batch, drizzle additional oil if needed.

Heat: use medium heat to fry the plantains. You may have to lower the heat depending on the size of your stove burner and pan. If you don't, your plantains can be burned in no time or brown too quickly.

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