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Soul food in Puerto Rican cuisine often refers to cuchifritos. These fried foods include a wide variety of typically pork-based dishes, from simple seasoned pork, to stuffed plantains and other foods. The term literally translates to "fried pig."
Depending upon the location in which it is served, a cuchifrito can range from vegetable or cheese-based fried foods to entire pork dishes, such as Chicharron, or fried pork skin. Each piece of finger food is highly flavorful, often rich or spicy, and can usually be consumed on the go. This makes them popular street foods to serve from food trucks or street vendors as well.
Various types of fritters are typically included on a cuchifritos menu. Yucca flour and batter are often used to form patties or pancakes that include pork, poultry, or seafood. Herbs and spices, such as garlic and rosemary, are often added for extra flavoring. Cheese may be included in these fritters or cakes as well. Most cuchifritos do not contain much, if any, fruit, though raisins are sometimes used in stuffing recipes.
Deep fried vegetables are popular cuchifritos. Plantains that are stuffed with different types of cheeses, such as picadillo, along with herbs and pureed plantains are favorite fried foods. Another favorite mashed vegetable is the potato, which is also filled with a cheese mixture or center, before being deep fried in oil. A meat, such as beef or pork, may also be used to stuff the vegetables prior to the frying process.
The most loved cuchifritos in any region are typically the meat-based foods. In addition to chicharron, cheesy beef patties and and beef-based alcapurria fritters made with pumpkin or plantain dough are usually popular items. Such foods made with a potato base are known as papas rellenas. Many Puerto Rican local also enjoy blood sausage dishes. Chickpeas are another popular stuffing for cuchifritos.
Sellers of cuchifritos may also use the term in naming their establishments. Such eateries have existed in New York, Puerto Rico, and other areas. Many of these spots do not featuring seating room and patrons are expected to eat their food while walking. In Spain, the dishes are known as cochifritos, and usually feature goat or lamb as the key ingredient instead of pork. These are considered a rural specialty of the country in areas such as Castile and León.
Many establishments that sell the finger foods also offer customers fruity beverages. Juices, smoothies, and other sweet beverages are usually inspired by tropical fruits. A sesame seed drink known as ajonjolí also often accompanies these fried foods.