When I first heard the word mofongo, it conjured up memories of my childhood, when my Italian-by-way-of-Long Island mother would hurtle Italian-ish swear words at me in times of toddler distress. One of them sounded an awful lot like mofongo. Couple that with an offensive hand-to-chin gesture and, well, you get my drift. But, I digress.
Mofongo is a traditional Dominican dish, also found in Puerto Rican cuisine, made of fried green plantains mashed with garlic, mixed with crispy bits of pork skin, called chicharrones, and usually served with a simple tomato sauce. In Charlotte, you can get your mofongo fix at Nano’s, the well-loved Dominican restaurant at 3428 N. Tryon St. Nano’s was first opened in 2007 by Julio “Nano” Victoria Sr. and then recently purchased by Dalton and Miriam Espaillat, the husband-and-wife team who also own Three Amigos (Dalton is the Dominican amigo) and Sabor Latin Street Grill.
Nano’s serves a plethora of mofongo options, including a version with the option of shrimp, marinated steak, fried chicken or crispy pork.
Today, we’re going to talk about the Camarofongo, Nano’s clever melding of the Spanish word for shrimp, camarones and mofongo. It goes for $12.50. Nano’s serves the dish made from scratch by the skilled hands of Rosa Rodriguez. It’s a real stick-to-your-ribs comfort meal, the kind that if eaten alone will send you home impregnated with your very own food baby, which is exactly what happened to me.
Nano’s prepares the Camarofongo by slicing green plantains, frying them and then mashing them the traditional way, with garlic — OK, hella garlic — inside a wooden mortar and pestle called a pilon that resembles a tall wooden chalice. The garlicky mash is then mixed with crispy pork skins and formed into a carb-nasty ball the size of a small melon. A simple sauce of tomatoes, onion, green and red bell peppers is ladled around the mofongo and garnished with shrimp. You will leave sated and with child. Figuratively, of course. The name of that food baby is mofongo, and it will have you shouting your own happy string of expletives.
Got a favorite dish in Charlotte? Share it me at [email protected].