Friday, July 22, 2011

Costa Ricans Love the Nicaraguan Vigorón

My Costa Rican boyfriend has kept trying to get me to eat the platter known as a vigorón which is sold by street vendors in Costa Rica.  The interesting thing is that the vigorón recipe is from Nicaragua.  Having spoken about the negative attitude many Costa Ricans have towards Nicaraguans, it surprises me that the vigorón is such a popular dish here in Costa Rica.  Back to the topic, however. 
I tasted my first vigorón a couple weeks ago at the Virgin of the Sea Festival in Puntarenas.  Up to that point, I had been hesitant to try the dish because what I saw in the street vendors' carts were the huge pieces of fried cracklings that were as big as chicken thighs.  I didn't understand how it could be eaten gracefully, and so I shied away from trying the vigorón.  But my boyfriend insisted, and I finally gave in.  I was very happy to realize that the pork cracklings in the dish are actually cut up into bite size pieces before being served, for ease of eating.

Needless to say, the vigorón dish was pretty tasty, although it did feel pretty sinful eating so much pork fat.   Still, the vigorón makes for a good once-in-a-blue-moon treat.  My boyfriend complained that the one we tried that day was not the best he has ever had.  He recommends the ones you can buy from Nicaraguan vendors lined up along Caldera beach instead.  In the meantime, I decided to find a vigorón recipe online to see if I can make it myself next time I'm in the mood.  The best vigorón recipe would come from an authentic Nicaraguan cook in my opinion, so here is one I found translated into English: 

Vigorón Recipe (For 6 people) - Ingredients:

- Pork cracklings (You can buy pork cracklings at most butchers or supermarkets.  Cracklings are a cut of pork that has the pork skin, pork fat and pork meat all attached. You can collect and freeze the pieces of fat and skin from your roasts and other cuts to use for this dish)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- Juice of 1 lime
- Pork lard or peanut oil (for frying)
- ½ kilo cabbage shredded
- 250 grams tomato diced
- 1 Kilo Yucca (cassava)
- Banana leaves (optional)
- Chili peppers diced (optional garnish)
- Salt
- Vinegar

For the Pork Cracklings:   Marinate the raw pork cracklings in a garlic and lime mixture for about an hour, continually turning.  In a deep fryer, get the oil or lard very hot, and then place the fat pieces in the hot oil and deep fry until light and golden brown. Do not overcook since pork fat can get hard. Once they are brown, remove from the pot and place on paper towels to drain.  For a healthier alternative to frying you can try to bake your cracklings per this recipe.

For the yucca:  Peel and wash the yucca.  Cut it into large pieces and boil until soft (about 35 - 45 minutes).  Remove from water and let cool.   Remove any hard stringy pieces and cut into smaller bite size pieces.

For the salad topping:  Shred the cabbage and dice the tomato.  Mix the two and season with the salt and vinegar to taste.

To put your vigorón recipe all together:  Place the cooked yucca on a platter (or on a banana leaf to be more traditional). Top with the fried pork cracklings, and then cover with the salad mix.  You can also add some diced chili peppers on top for more flavor.

Street vendor we bought our vigoron from

A close-up view of my vigoron platter

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