The History of Mangú, Los Tres Golpes, and Other Dominican Treats

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The following is a Dominican folktale passed on from one generation to another, and not meant to be taken as real historical facts.

On my last visit to the Dominican Republic I was shocked that on my first morning visit to the all-inclusive dining hall they did not have mangú.

Mangú is a Dominican staple, made of mashed green plantains (platanos verdes) that have been peeled, cut and boiled in salt (much like you would a potato) and then mashed (while using some of the water that it was boiled in) and served with red onions quickly sauteed in olive oil and vinegar (more oil, less vinegar).

Tip: when serving the mangú, take note that it will cool off and become dry and hard in the process. Always save a bit of the water from the pot in which the plantains were boiled, as heating that up and then mixing it hot with the plantains will return the mash to its warmer, more softer consistency.

Also note, peeling a green plantain perfectly is a right of passage for most Caribbean girls, as being able to perfectly separate the peal without lifting any of the fruit is a sign that you have mastered an element in the kitchen skills. Use the point of sharp knife to cut across the ridges of the plantain. Chop off the tip and lift the peel from the cut ridges, using the knife only to help lift. Do not cut the ridges too deep, or you risk cutting (and then lifting) off the fruit.

Not cutting the plantain perfectly doesn’t ruin the recipe or dish, as the cut-up chunks to boil end up getting mashed in the end, but it does kinda make you feel cool in la cocina.

Served with eggs, salami and fried white cheese – specifically you want Queso para freir, or frying cheese in cheese section of your supermarket or bodega. These are a variety of the more well-known Mexican cheese, Queso blanco, but with a texture that holds up better to frying.

All these ingredients together are called “Los Tres Golpes” – the “Three Hits” – and were first eaten by the rural residents of the island (campesinos) before heading out to work the fields.

Of course, nowadays I just eat it, with a nice café con leche or jugo de lechoza with milk (papaya milkshake) and make sure I hit the gym the next day.

My father came from a military family and through his father had learned the story of where the name mangú came from. It goes like this:

During the American invasion of the Dominican Republic (1916), American soldiers would walk into the rural towns and the residents would serve them what ever they had for food.

On this one particular day the soldiers were served with a green looking mash, sticky and starchy – nothing all that good to look at. They were hungry, but they were also nervous and refused to eat the dish.

One soldier, an Irish-American my father likes to say (when my Irish-Scot husband is around), volunteered to be the first.

He slowly ate the mash, savored it, and said, “Man, this is good!” Took another mouthful and mumbled, “Man! (muffle, muffle) good!!” After that all the soldiers tried it and agreed that in fact, man, this stuff was good!

Since then, when serving up the dish, the townspeople would present it as Mangú (Man, good) to all who followed.

I asked my father, “What did they call it before that?”

“Mashed plantains!” my dad said laughing.

Whether you call it mashed plantains, or mangú, there is no denying this is a dish that you must try when visiting the island. If you ask for “Los Tres Golpes” you will be guaranteed a great meal to last you a good portion of the day!

Check out my Facebook album on another Dominican treat (with a link to tips on how to make it perfectly): El concón

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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