After a night of too much drinking and staying up too far past my bedtime, I like to seek comfort in food the next day: usually standard American breakfast classics, preferably greasy, and heavy on the carbs. Biscuits and gravy in particular are a life-renewing source for me.
But not all hangovers are created equal and neither are their cures. Just the other day, for example, a friend told me about an out-of-town guest of hers who wanted to know where to go for curry, because that’s what he woke up craving after a night on the town. Curry! Can you believe it? Now, I love curry— don’t get me wrong—but after a night of boozing? Not likely.
Recently though, while staying at a friend’s apartment in Astoria (while I waited to move into my own apartment) my gracious host came over to my room (her guest room) and asked how Flaneur and I felt about going for mofongo.
“Mofongo! That’s exactly what I feel like eating right now.”
Not long after, the three of us were squeezed together in the back of a cab, Manhattan-bound toward the Upper West Side, to a restaurant called El Malecon. I had heard of mofongo before (really only from the friend we were with) but had never actually tried it, and Flaneur, who has most of his ethnic experiences through me, had never even heard of it.
So what is mofongo, you ask?
Besides a funny sounding word, mofongo is a Carribean dish of ground, mashed fried plantains shaped into a small mound. Plantains were pretty much the official side of my childhood and adolescent meals at home, so I was intrigued about eating them in a new form.
My other two semi-hungover dining companions got the chicken mofongo but I ordered the cheese version. (Cheese, along with carbs is another morning-after must.) The little mound of ground plantain came on a plate next to a bed of lettuce and tomato, a nice afterthought for the mofongo but pretty much just decoration. (If you read the first paragraph, you’ll notice lettuce is not for this occasion.)
But mofongo isn’t just plain ol’ plantain mashed up and reshaped. It’s also a blend of spices and a ton of garlic and whatever specific other ingredient you asked for—in my case cheese, what looked like queso blanco. But because all of that can be a bit dry, this dish comes with a stew-like sauce to pour over the mofongo, to make it a rich, moist, flavorful jumble of flavors.
Was it biscuits and gravy? No. Did it hit the spot on that Sunday afternoon and make for an ethnic spin on my hangover cuisine? Si.