HAVE YOU EVER tasted Puerto Rican pernil, a dish of
roast pork marinated in sour wild oranges for several days to
create a crisp meaty exterior with soft juicy insides? How about
arroz con gandules, a rice and pigeon pea dish flavored
with sofrito?a sauce of garlic, onions, cilantro, sweet
peppers, and annatto seeds? If not, you aren?t alone.

?Puerto Rican food is one of the great unknowns of the American
culinary scene,? writes Sylvia Lovegren in American
(Oct. 2002), calling it the most underrated
cuisine in America in the magazine?s annual overrated/underrated
issue. (Fusion cooking was the most overrated.)

Incorporating elements of Spanish, West African, indigenous
Taino-Arawak, and mainland American culinary styles, the island?s
food?prominently featuring annatto, plantains, and yams?is
intensely seasoned but never scorchingly spicy. Many dishes have a
distinct yellow color (from the annatto). Ready for a taste? Good
luck, writes Lovegren, ?unless you?re from the island yourself or
have Puerto Rican friends who are willing to feed you.? Despite
more than 3 million Puerto Ricans living in the continental United
States, our chances of encountering these delicacies are
surprisingly slim. There are only about 80 Puerto Rican restaurants
in the 50 states, making it a great opportunity for enterprising
cooks to open up a new culinary front.

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