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Cuchifritos (koo-chee-free-tohs) refers to various fried foods prepared principally of pork, in Puerto Rican cuisine. They include a variety of dishes including but not limited to morcilla (blood sausage), papas rellenas (fried potato balls stuffed with meat), chicharron (fried pork skin), and various other parts of the pig prepared in different ways. Cuchifritos vendors also typically serve juices and drinks such as passionfruit, pineapple, and coconut juice, as well as ajonjolí, a drink made from sesame seeds.
The term originally referred to small, fried parts of a pig. It derives its name from the word cuchí, short for cochino or pig and frito, which describes something that is fried. Cuchifritos may also refer to restaurants that serve this type of food.
In New York City
In New York City, vendors advertising cuchifritos are particularly notable because they tend to make use of colorful external lighting and big, flashy signs that quickly catch the eyes of passersby. These establishments have dotted the Puerto Rican and Dominican areas of New York City for the past 50 years, particularly Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights, South Bronx, Brooklyn, and other primarily Puerto Rican and Dominican neighborhoods.
Dishes served in a cuchifrito:
- Alcapurrias are starchy dough from tubers or vegetables, filled with spicy picadillo, and fried.
- Bacalaítos are a pancake-like batter containing salted codfish, flour, water or beer, sofrito, spices, and herbs.
- Beef patties are Puerto Rican-style beef patties filled with picadillo and cheese.
- Pastelillos are flour or yuca dough stuffed with cheese, chicken, seafood, turkey or picadillo.
- Rellenos de papa are mashed potatoes stuffed with picadillo or cheese, then deep fried.
- Plátanos relleno are mashed sweet plantains stuffed with picadillo or cheese, then deep fried.
- Pasteles, in a cuchifrito, are done in a traditional manner with green banana masa and pork from the boston butt made into a filling, often with extra fillings, such as raisins, chickpeas and other meats.
In Spain, cuchifritos are a typical dish from Castilla-La Mancha, Castile and León and Extremadura. Also called cochifritos, the dish consists of lamb or goat meat cooked and then fried with olive oil, garlic, vinegar, basil, rosemary, bay leaves, and spearmint. This rural dish is served hot.
New World cuchifritos and cuchifrito establishments have appeared regularly in the Bronx Flavor television series hosted by Baron Ambrosia. Episodes such as "Cuchifritos of Love" document the history of the food and its distinct role in Nuyorican cuisine and identity.
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