Rondon Vegano

Notes: Rundown also known as Rondon is a stew in Jamaican cuisine. The traditional Jamaican dish is eaten in several Latin American countries that share a coast with the Caribbean Sea.

Normally it consists of a stew made up of reduced coconut milk with different types of seafood (fish, crabs, small lobsters or shellfish), plantain, yam, tomato, onion and seasonings. Rundown is typically available in Jamaican restaurants and it is a common dish in the Antiles, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Venezuela too.

For us this dish has a special significance for a few reasons. Our owner Michael Katz had a version of the dish served in a vegan variation while visiting a permaculture farm on the Caribean coast. The farm version did not use the seafood normally used for this dish and highlighted root vegetables instead. That is what we wanted to recreate for our version here at Alma de Amon. It is the first dish put on the menu with our new direction of focusing on healthy ingredients and indigenous cuisine.

Preparation: Malanga, Nampi, Camote and Yuca are cut into cubes and mixed with thyme, chile panameno, coconut milk and turmeric are all put into a pot and cooked. The starch from the vegetables helps to thicken the reduced coconut milk. The dish is garnished with Cilantro oil and Crispy Yuca sticks.

Causa de Pejiballe

Country: Perú, Costa Rica

Notes: Causa, in its most basic form, is a mashed potato mixture mixed with lime, chili and oil.  Salads can have avocado, chicken, tuna or even shellfish added as a filling in the middle of the potato mixture. Causa is popular in Lima Peru, where it is distinguished by the name Causa Limeña. Causa is usually served cold and garnished with hard boiled eggs and olives. When thinking of how to incorporate Costa Rican ingredients we decided to use Pejiballe puree to mix with the potatoes making our Causa unique to Alma de Amon.

Although this dish already existed in ancient times, there seems to be many different versions of how this dish came to be. Even with so many varieties and claims to the origins it seems the dish was popularized when making it to feed soldiers during war times. There are also many stories of how the dish was sold to raise money to feed the military to help support “The Causa”.

It is hard to avoid the many potato-based recipes in Peru when you know that Peru offers no less than 7 potato species and more than 5,000 varieties of all shapes and colors. Potatoes are also not expensive and you can see why they would be preferred to cook when feeding large groups of people such as an army. The fact that you can mix pretty much anything with a little mayonnaise and place it in the middle of the potato puree makes this dish very versatile, convenient and easy to make with basic ingredients.

Preparation: The potato base is made by stirring mashed potatoes with Pasta de Rocotto puree, oil, salt, pejiballe and lime. For the salad mixture heart of palm, avocado, and mayonnaise are mixed together. A base of potato is placed in the center of the plate and then the heart of palm mixture is placed on top and then another layer of potato/ pejiballe mix on top. Then the plate is garnished with cherry tomatoes, plantain chips, heart of palm and watercress.

Tres Leches

Country: Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras

Notes: The cake consists of a cake soaked with three types of milk: evaporated milk , cream of milk and condensed milk, which give it its name. It is usually accompanied with a meringue of egg whites and with maraschino cherries and sprinkled with cinnamon powder. Usually the recipe does not have butter and therefore has a spongy texture. The decoration may vary depending on the region or the taste of the diner. You can use fondant, chantilly or meringue .

It can be prepared in different ways, for example you can add chocolate to the decoration or add dulce de leche (cajeta / manjar / arequipe), or some alcoholic beverage ( rum, brandy, anise, etc.) to the mixture of the three milks.

We have specialized ours to have espresso to the milks mixture.  We then top ours with a merengue and toast it tableside with Flor de Cana rum.

Preparation: The cake is baked off in individual portions and left to cool. The cakes are then soaked in the coffee and milk mixture until very wet. The merengue is spread on top and then tableside the flor de cana is heated and then lit on fire. While the rum is on fire it is spooned on top of the merengue which starts to blacken the merengue.

La Frita Cubana

Country: Costa Rica (Alma restaurant)

Notes: The Frita Cubana won the Silver Spatula at the Burger Fest 2015 and is now part of our menu. The patties are made from beef and chorizo with pineapple ketchup, onion and served inside of cuban buns. The burgers are made into sliders and two are served with every order.

Preparation: The dish is started by grilling the patties until they are cooked through. Then sliders are made using cuban bread, pickled red onions, the cooked patties and finally yuca con mojo is served on the side.

Flan de Abuelita

Country: Europe, Asia, Latin america, North America

Story: Nearly every part of the world has a version of flan. The earliest version of flan was more of a savory dish in the roman culture. The ability to make the dish ahead of time and keep until needed is most likely a good reason why it became so popular. Also, many cultures have sugar, eggs and milk readily available.

There are so many varieties of flan that it would take pages to get through all of the differences. In an effort to keep things simple we can just say that Costa Rica is one of the countries where you also find coconut milk in the base recipe. Also, like so many other countries, a caramel is made and poured at the bottom of the container that flan will be cooked in. The milk mixture is added and then all of the containers are put in a Bain-Marie. After the flan is cooked, the container is turned upside down onto a plate to serve and the caramel which was cooked on the bottom becomes the top giving the flan its very famous dark brown color.

The Bain-Marie traditionally is a wide and usually metal container that holds hot water. Then, a smaller container that fits inside the outer one which holds the material to be cooked is placed inside. Typically, the inner (smaller) container is immersed about halfway into the hot water. When the water and the bain-marie is used the maximum temperature of the water in the lower container will not exceed 100 degrees Celsius (212 °F), the boiling point of water as long as there is a cover on top to catch the steam. Because the temperature can not exceed 100 degrees Celsius it is a very secure and gentle way to cook certain foods, especially custards that use eggs that get scrambled with high heat.

Preparation: A caramel is poured into a container that will cook the flan and left to set and get hard. The milk mixture is then poured on top and the container holding the caramel and flan mix is placed into a Bain-Marie filled with water. The flan is cooked until barley sets and then removed to cool. Once ready, the flan is turned onto a plate and garnished with toasted coconut.

Croquetas de Platanos

Country: Costa rica

Story: Our Croquetas de Platanos is actually inspired from another type of dish eaten in Costa Rica. Empanadas de Platanos are made as a form of empanada that is special to Costa Rica. One of the most popular versions of this dish is when it is stuffed with cheese. Our chef has taken this idea and turned it into a dish suitable for Alma by incorporating other influences. A croqueta is made from the platano mixture instead of an empanada and chorizo is added to enhance the flavor of the plantain and center of melted cheese. The croqueta adds a crispy layer to the mixture. Also added to enhance flavor is a black bean mole sauce underneath and a salad made from chayote for freshness that is placed on top.

Preparations: Sweet plantain puree is formed around shredded mozzarella cheese and chorizo into a ball. The ball is then rolled in flour, eggs and then panko bread crumbs to form a crust on the outside. The balls are then fried until golden brown. On the plate some of the black bean sauce is placed down and on top the croquetas and then a salad of chayote and cucumber.

Chicharron de Falda

Country: Costa Rica

Story: Chicharrones are made by frying pork in fat, and are associated with several dishes. Most Ticos usually eat them with rangpur or lime juice and fried yuca, accompanied by tortillas. It is also a main ingredient in a popular dish called chifrijo, which also combines red beans, rice, and pico de gallo. Another popular dish in Costa Rican cuisine that includes chicharrones is the vigorón.

For our version, we marinate the pork belly in roasted garlic puree, bomba spice and chile de arbol. Pork belly is great because it has a high fat content which helps to make it tender. This is marinated overnight and then cooked sous vide until it is very, very tender. Also a mojo is made in a traditional way and then cas fruit is added to give it an ingredient that is local to Costa Rica.

Sous vide (pronounced sue-veed) is a cooking technique that utilizes precise temperature control to deliver consistent results. High-end restaurants have been using sous vide cooking for years to cook food to the exact level of doneness desired, every time. The technique is popular because of easy-to-use sous vide precision cooking equipment called a circulator. The circulator heats water to a specific temperature that you choose which is determined by what you are cooking. Sous vide, which means “under vacuum” in French, refers to the process of sealing food in a bag, then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. This technique produces results that are impossible to achieve through any other cooking method.

Preparations: Pork belly in roasted garlic puree, bomba spice and chile de arbol. This is marinated overnight and then cooked sous vide until it is very, very tender. When finished we cut the pork into cubes and fry them to order. A mojo is made in a traditional way with cas fruit and poured into the bottom of a bowl. The fried pork belly is sprinkled with lime juice and topped with a salad of cabbage and chicharon, sprinkled with bomba spice.