How to Revisit Your Favorite Place Through Food: A Trip Back to Guatemala
Have you ever been somewhere so special to you that it becomes a permanent part in your mind — a thought that reoccurs on a day-to-day basis? For me, it is Guatemala. More specifically, a little village outside of Guatemala City named San Raymundo. I’ve gone twice in the past two years and both times I’ve come home with a greater respect and love for the Guatemalan people, food, and culture. There is an unyielding sense of community and family over there, and everyone works to help each other. It’s truly beautiful. I aim to go once every year through a ministry called “Casas Por Cristo.” “Casas Por Cristo” brings in full-time missionaries and volunteers to help build homes for families in need. Currently, the builds are stationed throughout Juárez and Acuña México, San Raimundo, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. What I love about these trips is that you see the unfiltered version of Guatemala — the kind that’s hidden from the travel brochures. It’s a beautiful land with wonderful people, but it’s absolutely wrought with poverty. However, even in these circumstances, the people thrive. They’re incredibly resourceful and don’t waste anything.
Every day we were on the build site (a total of 4) they cooked lunch for us, which is a huge deal for a family who doesn’t even have a place to call home. It’s very different from the food we have here in the State, but we were, of course, so grateful and had to try it. When we did, we were all shocked. The food was so delicious. They made mostly chicken and rice and beans, but the chicken was perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, and way better than most that I’ve had here in the States. The rice and beans were beyond fantastic. Anyway, the moral of the story is: Guatemalan food and people are just super impressive. I was missing this place like I often do and wanted to revisit the only way I know how: through food. Now, I didn’t want to be too prideful in my cooking skills (or lack thereof) and try to recreate the delicious chicken dishes they made for us, so instead, I tried a simple dessert and obviously had salsa music playing in the background the whole time I cooked. I was impressed by how delicious the dessert was (you’ll understand why once you see the ingredients) and thought I’d share it with all of you, in case you were looking for a cultural eating experience.
The dessert is “Rellenitos Colocha.” The chef, Giovanni Morales, says, “The original name for this plantain dessert is rellenitos originating in Guatemala. I renamed it “Rellenitos Colocha,” because my aunt (Tia Colocha) first taught me how to make the dessert as it was considered her specialty and she was the expert with the ‘secret’ touch that made them so delicious.” And delicious, it is.
4 plantains (ripe)
2 cups boiled black beans
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 pound butter
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups brown sugar
For Plantains: Cut the ends off of the four plantains, and slice each down the middle of one side of each, then slice each plantain in half (this will give you 8 pieces with a slice down the center of each).Bring a pot of deep frying oil to 300 degrees. Open each plantain half at the cuts made down the center of each to allow the insides to be cooked evenly. Drop all 8 plantain halves into the preheated oil and let fry for 8 mins or until soft and golden brown.
Black Bean Puree Prep: Empty 2 cups of whole boiled black beans into a food processor or blender. Pour in 1 cup of pure cane sugar. Add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Puree mixture until the beans are a smooth consistency. Heat black bean puree for 1 min.
For Caramel Sauce: Melt 1/2 lb of butter into a pot (takes approx 2-3 mins). Add 2 cups of light brown sugar and whisk until completely dissolved to the melted butter (takes about 1 minute). Stir in 1 cup of heavy cream and whisk until sugar and milk completely combine with butter (takes about 1 minute).
Bring the mixture to a boil for 30 seconds and remove from flames. Bring it all together. Line the bottom of your serving vessel with the caramel sauce. Fill the center openings of each the plantain halves with the cinnamon sugared black bean puree. Place the stuffed plantain in the caramel and serve. Add a confectionary sugar dusting for garnish.
I know that putting black beans in a dessert sounds odd, but it was so delicious. Cooking this dessert was such a great experience for me because while I was doing it, I got to think back on all that they did for us, and how it was so much more complicated than what I was attempting. It gave me an even deeper appreciation for the people, culture, and food of Guatemala.
This recipe was adapted from The Latin Kitchen.
Today’s article was contributed by Maddie Mercer.