Masaco de platano (mashed plantain) is a popular snack or teatime food that originates in the tropics of Eastern Bolivia in the regions of Beni and Santa Cruz. The main ingredient (plantain) is a type of banana that is used only for cooking. Plantains are larger than the bananas we normally eat raw and have a tough skin that doesn't easily pull off the fruit so they must usually be peeled with a knife. Although the fruit inside looks the same as a regular banana, it is also harder and is not pleasant to eat raw, which is why we always bake, boil or fry plantains.
Masaco is typically eaten in the afternoon, at teatime, on its own or accompanied only by tea or coffee. It is not normally eaten as part of a larger meal. It is not a side dish, for example. Instead, one would eat masaco as one would tea with a scone or milk with cookies or coffee with pie. Masaco is both sweet and savory, as you will see from the surprising ingredients below. How sweet or savory you prefer your masaco depends on how ripe your plantains are. When plantains are green, they are not sweet but are bland, much like potatoes or rice. The more a plantain ripens, the more yellow and sweet it becomes. You can adjust the recipe below to your own liking by trying plantains in various shades of yellow and green.
3 large plantains
1/2 cup pulled beef or pork in very small pieces
3 tablespoons of diced red onion
1/2 cup of shredded white cheese
Oil to fry the plantains (about 1 cup)
A small dessert bowl or cup
4-6 small dessert plates or saucers
Peel the plantains by cutting off the skins with a knife. Cut them into small pieces (rounds) by laying the plantain horizontally on a cutting board and slicing it into pieces that are about 1/2 inch thick. DO NOT cut slices that are too thin. We don't want crispy banana chips.
Place a paper towel over a plate. We will use this to drain the excess oil off the plantains once they have been cooked.
In a small pan, sautée your diced onions in 1 teaspoon of oil until the onions become soft and translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare your pulled beef or pork by ensuring it has been shredded into small pieces. Pulled beef (or pork) is meat that has already been cooked and is then pulled from the bone and shredded by hand. (Masaco is actually a great little snack to make when you have a small portion of beef or pork left over from another meal).
Shred the cheese. You can use Queso San Javier or, if you are not in Bolivia, you can use Mexican Queso Fresco or mozzarella.
In a deep pan, heat your oil on high, but not so hot that is begins to smoke. Reduce the heat to medium high. Place your plantain rounds into the oil and begin to fry them, stirring or moving them gently around to ensure they fry evenly. Fry them in oil until they take on a honey colored hue. Do NOT let them burn, but do not undercook. Watch them closely because they will take a while to cook, but as soon as they begin to turn golden, they will then rapidly burn and you don't want them to crisp. It's important they remain SOFT.
When they have turned golden and are soft, carefully remove them from the oil with a strainer spoon and place them on the paper towel-covered plate. Allow the paper towel to soak in any excess oil.
Place the plantains, onions and pulled meat into a large mixing bowl and mash all of the ingredients together until they are fully mixed and there are no large pieces of plantain left.
Place a bit of shredded cheese into your cup or dessert bowl. The cheese should be enough to cover the bottom of the cup. Scoop the banana mixture into the cup. Press down on the banana mixture and "pack it" in. Top it off with a bit more if necessary, ensuring the cup or bowl is full and the mixture is completely packed.
Place your dessert plate or saucer over the top of the cup. Then flip the plate and cup over together (the cup is now on top of the plate). Slowly lift the cup off the mashed plantains. The cheese is now on top and your masaco de plátano is ready to serve (see photo).
Repeat: place cheese into the bottom of your cup or bowl again, pack in more mashed plantains, cover with a plate, flip over, and repeat again until you have finished all the mixture. Depending on the size of your little cup or bowl, this recipe will make about 4-5 servings. Masaco de plátano is typically served warm.