Food You Can Eat: Shrimp Mofonguitos and Piña Coladas

Hot enough for ya???

¡Una fiesta en su boca!

If, by the time you read this, it’s hot and humid and this weather is getting on your last nerve, [Update: I wrote this some months ago and yes, by God, it has been pretty beastly out there] calm yourself with these two treats from my favorite Why Isn’t It A State Yet, Puerto Rico. (I know why it’s not a state.)

Let’s start with Cousin Mattie’s Piña Coladas first, because you’ll need these before, during, and after the Mofonguitos.

Cream of coconut can be alcoholic (about 30 proof) or non-alcoholic, so decide how stiff you want your piña colada to be and use either one. In a blender, pour 1 part cream of coconut, 2 parts pineapple juice, 2 parts light rum, and lots of ice. Blend until frothy. Pour into your most festive glass(es) and garnish with a slice of pineapple on the lip of the glass and/or a cherry plopped in. Bonus points from me if you use a maraschino cherry. Figure about one blender pitcher per person, or that might just be me and my friends. You might be tempted to just use coconut-flavored rum and pineapple juice, but that’s not as good. If you think it’s foolish to buy cream of coconut just for an occasional piña colada think again: there are tons of recipes that call for the non-alcoholic version.

Shrimp-Filled Mofonguitos

Mofonguitos are little appetizer cups made out of fried plaintains and filled. You can buy Mofonguito cups ready-made but that’s no fun.

—To Make The Cups

Peel 2 large plaintains and cut them into 2” pieces. Put them in a bowl of water for a couple of minutes so they hydrate. Then, fry them in oil in a skillet for a few minutes until they soften but don’t turn all crispy. You don’t have a tostonera (the device used in Puerto Rico to make plaintain cups) and neither do I, so get out 2 mini muffin pans. Put 1 piece in each muffin pan well, put the empty muffin pan on top, and push down to make the cups. Don’t squeeze down so hard that there’s no plaintain left at the bottom. Then, clean the bottom of the empty muffin pan, fill that with a plaintain piece per well, and press the filled muffin pan into it. Clean the bottom of this pan now. You now have two muffin pans filled with plaintain cups. Carefully remove the plaintain cups from the muffin pans, reheat the oil, and fry the cups until they’re crisped and browned.

Or just buy the damned cups. The ones in the grocery store, if you can find any, will be larger than these.

Let them cool and finish off your piña colada or pour yourself a fresh one.

—To Make The Shrimp Filling

Clean out that skillet, pour in some fresh oil to make a film, heat the oil over high heat until it shimmers but doesn’t bubble (if you have a thermometer, 375 degrees is the ideal temp), and add 1 lb. of small, deveined, tails-removed shrimp. Shrimpy-shrimps, because your plaintain cups are so small. Season with adobo or Old Bay, and cook a minute or two until the shrimp turn pink. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and put them on a plate or in a bowl.

Clean out the skillet and add 1 1/2 cups/12 ounces tomato sauce (the spicier the better) and 3 or 4 cloves of minced garlic. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes, stirring all the while. Since you’re not making the sauce from scratch you just want to get the garlic incorporated and then let it calm down and thicken a little through simmering; no need to spend an hour or two with it. Add the shrimp, stir them around two or three times, and after about 3 minutes they should be done.

If you want, warm the Mofonguito cups on a baking sheet in the oven a little bit at this point. You don’t really need to do this since the filling will be hot enough. Fill the cups with the mixture, refill your piña colada glass, and dig in.

—Shrimp-Guacamole Filling For When The Heat Is Really Getting To You

A really simple thing you can do is fill your plaintain cups with chilled guacamole, store-bought or homemade, and top with one cooked-then-chilled shrimp on top. This is what I had the first time I ever had anything approaching a Mofonguito, and it was passed as an appetizer at a wedding I went to something like 30 years ago.


Obviously, this works best in a “drinks ’n whores-dovers” setting with party guests, but I did this for just Life’s Helpmeet and me last summer and it was really fun. What possessed me?

Well. Better Half was at his optometrist in the Bronx (why his optometrist is in the Bronx is its own story) and he came home with what he thought were especially cheap bananas. When I gently informed him that he had bought plantains, recipes for which number in the hundreds, he got all upset (the heat was getting to him too, and we were only just climbing out of pandemic lockdown) so I saved the day with this little impromptu Salute to the Island of Enchantment party.



  1. This looks delicious, but I’m not completely comfortable asking for something that sounds really rude.  Mofonguito sounds like something you’d call the guy who splashed the puddle on you when you were standing at the bus stop.

    However, there is a restaurant in Chicago called La Mofonguito over on North Avenue at Montecello and it’s quite good.  When we were last there I had the steak jibarita and it was terrific.  I’m told it’s the best Puerto Rican food in the city.

    • Oh yes, then you’d have something like shrimp in a cocktail sauce, except rather than eating it out of a glass or a bowl you would be eating it out of your mofonguito.

Leave a Reply