Pinolandia, Yambo, and Fritanga Montelimar: Hung Over? Visit Miami's Top Three Fritangas
Nicaraguan cooking is best summarized thusly: "This is good. Let's make it great." Consider, for example, empanadas de maduro -- cheese-filled sweet-plantain patties, which sound nice but aren't good enough in their simplest form. So Nicaraguans immerse the half-moons in hot oil until the cheese melts and the crust caramelizes. Fried sweet plantain packed with cheese? Behold: Good is now great.
billwisserphoto.com A wall at Yambo Restaurant.
There's also a ball that looks a lot like a potato. But it's not a potato. It's a breaded golden tortilla thronged with succulent meat bits and soft white rice like a massive Italian arancini. This nica enchilada, too, is battered and fried in oil.
Those who fear grease should avoid the lard-laden world known as the fritanga, a Nicaraguan cafeteria. In these neighborhood spots, the food is homespun, prices are affordable, and the folks behind the counter often possess a hearty sense of humor.
Recently, I dove into this pinguid world with a few things in mind. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was still hurting from Friday night's binge, which means I longed for pork fat, oil, and anything fried. I embarked on a voyage of three consecutive meals at Miami's top fritangas. The objective was simple: to consume as much fried cheese and frescos de cacao -- blended drinks made with toasted cacao, rice, cinnamon, and milk -- as possible. Three portions of the Nicaraguan grilled beef known as carne asada, meat so flavorful it makes Argentine steak seem like cat food, would also be ideal.
Was there a higher purpose? No. But three meals of comida nica would be a fine way to approach both corpulence and glee.