Verde (pronounced ber-deh), the Spanish word for the color green, is the generic word for plantain in Ecuador. And Manabí is where this fruit becomes a veritable prodigy. Manabí cooks are verde alchemists: they use the fruit in liquid form, they solidify it, they make it hard and crispy, they soften it, they turn it into dough, into flour, into spongy cakes, into drinks and into vinegar. While plantain did not originate in the area – it arrived from Africa during colonial times – such varied use of the ingredient says a lot of Manabí’s culinary culture: it forms the basis of the majority of local dishes. Like tomatoes, which are not originally from Italy, or potatoes, which are not Irish, Manabitas have made the plantain their own. In the Manabita’s words, “you can do anything with verde.”
In Latin American we are well aware of sweet plantain. But Manabita recipes like malarrabia, for example, turn the cooked fruit turn into a caramelized sugar. For other dishes, the green plantain offers a neutral flavor, which complements countless ingredients, such as peanuts, green peppers, cilantro, fish, meats, cheeses, lemon and onions, creating an array of spectacularly unique combinations. Verde is also malleable in its presentation: it can form perfect balls, as used in the delicious sopa de bola de verde (plantain-ball soup), or empanadas (turnovers or patties) and crispy patacones (plantains that have been squashed into fat discs and deep fried) and, of course, plantain chips.
Verde’s magic also comes from its flavor. When fermented, it creates vinegar, and, if the fruit is left to ripen, it becomes sweet.
However it is cooked – raspados, soups, sauces, reductions, empanadas, bolones, cakes, bread-like corviches, chips or casserole – verde forms a consistent base in Manabí’s gastronomic rainbow: it is the foundation over which Manabí’s inimitable culinary sensibilities rise in glory.
In liquid form
Green plantain is blended into soup consistency (raspados) and chucula is ripe plantain blended with milk and cinnamon.
Into a bechamel-like sauce, as in sango.
Verde in curd-like form is liquefied and baked, as in cazuela.
Mixing grated plantain with boiled plantain creates a flour consistency perfect for empanadas and coviches.
Plantain ball (dry)
Boiling plantain in a little water makes it easy to knead. It can be mixed with cheese and fried to create a crisp finish.
Plantain ball (wet)
Twice-boiled for a soft finish. The second boil is usually as part of a stew or soup.
Fermented plantain is used to pickle vegetables and make hot sauce.
Maduros (“matures”: ripe, yellow plantains) acquire a cake-like quality (without the need for flour) when baked.
Fine slices when fried make chifle chips, or thick slices make patacones.