Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Puerto Rican Sandwich

There’s a venerable diner in old San Juan called Café Mallorca. It’s the kind of place I like a lot. Big counter. Old guys working the sandwich press with ties on. Regulars eating and drinking alone.

They make a sandwich that’s kind of famous in San Juan called–no surprise–a Mallorca. Ham and cheese, stuffed in a buttered, split sweet roll (that’s the mallorca part), grill-pressed, then topped with lots of powdered sugar. In spite of its odd-sounding finale, it’s pretty tasty. And easy to make at home. A challah roll would make a good stand-in if you can’t find a mallorca roll around town.

A couple other interesting notes about Puerto Rico.

The Piña Colada was invented on the island in 1954. Odd, I thought, I didn’t see it on bar menus much. But loads of roadside stands had handmade signs offering it for sale. I laughed at first. They looked like lemonade stands selling cocktails to drivers. Later I learned: no alcohol.

Wild oysters are harvested on the northwest coast, near Aguadilla. I'd never seen wild oysters before. They look a lot different than cultivated, which is what you see for sale almost anywhere. They grow in a big craggy mass that looks like coral. The oysters are broken off the mass like barnacles off a hull. Their shells have odd shapes, twists and turns, it's hard to find a place for the knife. In Boquerón, a town 40 miles south, cart vendors line the last street before the water to shuck and sell them, six for two bucks. They may be ugly, but they’re tasty, sweet and punchy and go great with the local condiments—a squirt of lime juice and a dab of Bohia hot sauce.

If you’re heading off to a new place and are interested in some tips feel free to drop me a line. If I’ve been there—and sometimes if I haven’t—I keep notes.

No comments: