Vegan Vaca Frita y Fufu
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Vegan Vaca Frita y Fufu

A plant-based Cuban classic served with a refreshing Tomato Recaito salad and crunchy Root Vegetable Chips.

May 23, 2024

by: Evanice Holz | @senoreata

I grew up with a few types of plantain preparations: tostones, maduros, and mariquitas. A couple of years ago in Havana, Cuba, I took a cooking class that introduced me to Fufu - mashed plantains with onions and garlic. It’s a dish similar to the Puerto Rican mofongo, where you boil green plantains and mash them like mashed potatoes with smashed cloves of garlic. It’s a dish that’s loaded with potassium and fiber, and a nice break away from the typical deep-fried plantain dishes I know and love.

Fufu has its origins in West Africa, where it is a staple food. It is traditionally made from starchy vegetables like cassava, yams, or plantains, which are boiled and then pounded into a dough-like consistency. While the original African version primarily used yams or cassava, Cuban fufu often utilizes plantains, which are more readily available on the island. The typical Cuban fufu is made from boiled green plantains that are mashed and then mixed with garlic, pork cracklings (chicharrones), and onions. To keep this Fufu plant-based, I opted for no chicharrones and just kept the garlic and onions.

Plantains about to get mashed for fufu

I like to pair my Fufu with Ropa Vieja’s sibling - Vaca Frita - which is typically made with shredded cow meat that I sub with succulent, antioxidant, and protein-rich oyster mushrooms. If you’re concerned Vaca Frita made with oyster mushrooms won’t taste as good as the OG, I encourage you to go in with an open mind! Oyster mushrooms have a firm, chewy texture that closely resembles the mouthfeel of meat.

These mushrooms hold up well to various cooking methods, such as grilling, frying, sautéing, and roasting, which helps in recreating the texture of different meat dishes. Oyster mushrooms are also rich in umami, the savory fifth taste that is also abundant in meat. This makes them a flavorful alternative, providing depth and complexity to dishes.

Oyster mushrooms getting prepped

This shredded oyster mushroom Vaca Frita is juicy, crispy, and loaded with flavor thanks to Loisa’s organic sazones y heritage-based sofritos. It will add some Sazón to your weekly meal rotation, giving it sabor a lo Cubano without ever missing the meat. Mushrooms are notorious for shrinkage, so whatever you think you’re going to eat, double it as you will wind up with half the amount. The mushroom quantity I include in this recipe isn’t firm; feel free to adjust to your desired amount with that in mind. I’m a big believer in adjusting seasoning to your liking, so have fun with the Organic Loisa Adobo!

There’s always confusion or shock-factor when I tell people I specialize in plant-based, modern Cuban cuisine. That is until they try the food. My catering company, Señoreata takes tradition and rewrites the narrative in a more sustainable way for today’s environment. As a culture known for its pig and cow dishes, it seems oxymoronic. However, now seven years in business, with a historic Food Network TV show win, plant-based Cuban food is something that is making more sense to others now.

Vaca frita in cast iron skillet

There are four parts to this recipe: the Vaca Frita, Fufu, refreshing Tomato Recaito salad, and salty root vegetable chips. I broke each part down into its own recipe whether you want to make these all together, or on its own!

To plate the Fufu, I love using a greased 1/2 cup measurer (the type you measure dry goods with) to form the Fufu for a gorgeous presentation with a root vegetable chip on top. The Tomato Recaito salad and Root Vegetable chips are super simple to prepare. If you want to reduce the time, you don’t need the chips— they just add some crunch and texture. If you have leftovers of the Tomato Recaito salad, this recipe also keeps really well the next day made into a bowl with some fresh greens! The cilantro, culantro, and lime in the Recaito make it the perfect quick vinaigrette to add some more acidity and freshness to any dish.

Sometimes, I make these dishes and serve them to my family without telling them they’re vegan and wait for their reaction. Usually they can't tell! With each recipe I ‘veganize’ from my culture, I’m adding my experience as a first-generation Latina embracing my heritage, a mi manera. ¡Buen provecho!