Chef prepares ‘true Puerto Rican fare’ at Mercado

If you’re looking for the taste of Puerto Rico, don’t drive to Beaverton; it’s here in outer East Portland ...

Anthony “Tony” Banegas welcomes customers to taste Puerto Rican food at his new cart, “EL COQUÍ!” in the Portland Mercado on Foster Road.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

In mid-February, the only Puerto Rican food cart in Oregon – “EL COQUÍ!” – had opened at the Portland Mercado, in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood on SE Foster Road.

“El Coquí is named for a chirping frog found across Puerto Rico – a cultural symbol for the island,” grinned chef/owner Anthony “Tony” Banegas, as he prepared food for a catering assignment. “Our food comes from Afro-Caribbean roots, Spanish roots, and also the native tribe of Taino from Puerto Rico.”

It’s a misconception that Puerto Rican food is very spicy, the chef said; “Unlike other Latino dishes, we cook more with garlic and culantro – it’s similar to cilantro, but is less spicy, and brings full, rich flavor.”

Making an order of “Mofongo” is Tony Banegas, of the newly-opened food cart “EL COQUÍ!” on Foster Road.

He began making an order of the island nation’s most famous dish, called “Mofongo”, for a customer. He fried green plantains – then smashed them in a mortar and pestle, adding butter, garlic, salt, and pork (vegetables or chicken can be substituted for pork) before finishing it with chicken broth.

“I also use vegetable broth, as a vegetarian option,” Banegas told East Portland News. “What I love is that Puerto Rican food has many vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian options, without sacrificing the taste of our traditional recipes.”

Here, frying an order of “bacalaitos”, is Tony Banegas, owner and check of the new Puerto Rican food cart “EL COQUÍ!”.

El Coquí also features traditional Puerto Rican small dishes like pinchos (skewers), empanadillas (meat and/or vegetable filled turnovers), and bacalaitos (fried codfish fritters).

You’ll find Chef Banegas cooking in the green food cart at the Portland Mercado, 7238 SE Foster Road, 97206.

© 2018 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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