Monday, April 18, 2011

Chifles (plantain chips)

Chifles are snacks I grew up eating. Whenever someone in my family would visit my grandmother in Peru, they’d always come back with 2 or 3 bags of chifles in their suitcases. Chifles are slices of plantain which are set on paper towels to dry, and then fried. As soon as they come out of the pot they’re lightly dusted with salt and laid on paper towels again to drain.
A plantain has a similar shape to a banana, but its skin only turns yellow for a short period, just before ripening. A fully ripe plantain has a black skin. It’s starchier and firmer than a banana, and not as sweet.
We usually eat chifles by themselves like you’d eat potato chips, but it’s also customary to serve them with certain Peruvian dishes like ceviche and soups. In Peru, plantains are available year-round, so you can always find them in my grandma's kitchen.
I’ve never made these myself here in the U.S. — not because I can't find the ingredients, but because (thanks to whoever goes to visit my grandma in Peru) we always have some laying around our house.

3 or 4 plantains
vegetable oil

Cut the plantains into 1/16- to 1/8-inch-thick slices. If you want to speed up this process, you can use a mandolin. Lay a single layer of slices on paper towels to dry for about 30 minutes.
Add 1/2 inch of oil to a pot (deep enough to prevent splatter) and heat to medium high. Toss in a handful of the plantain slices and turn them until they become a gold color. Remove the fried plantain chips into a bowl, sprinkle a pinch of salt and toss to evenly spread. Empty the chips onto paper towels to drain. Repeat this process until all the plantain slices have been fried, salted and drained. The plantain chips will absorb some of the oil, so add more as needed.

Store the plantains in air-free containers or plastic bags.

Photograph by Michael Findley

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