Food is a feast for the senses. The first point of attraction is the way a dish looks and how it is presented. Smell wafts through the nose. Fingers and mouth take on texture and temperature. Before the taste buds can have their way, it all explodes with a deafening CRUNCH.
I love plantain spiders – aka. arañitas de platano. They are bites that truly engage all five senses. Eating them is a loud experience. That crunch, the hit of salt, the unmistakable smell of fried plantain.
If you’ve shied away from making plantain spiders at home, it couldn’t be easier. Keep in mind the following tips:
- Always keep track of the oil’s temperature using a thermometer. A good one won’t set you back more than $15. Make sure the oil does not heat over 360˚F or under 340˚.
- Don’t make the spiders too big. If you are using a deep fryer, you might be able to make larger arañitas with better chances to fry them evenly. Otherwise, stick to two or three tablespoons of grated plantain.
- Don’t press the arañita too tightly. Some people grab the grated plantain and squeeze it into a ball. If you do that, there’s a chance the plantain will not cook all the way through the center. Grate the plantain in a cutting board or on top of a silicone baking mat. Form the little mounds and press them down gently with two fingers. The starch in the plantain will bind together the spider while you wait for the oil to be ready. There will always be some stray plantain bits. Think of them as cook’s bonus. Eat them after they cool down or save them and toss them in a soup or chili.
- Scoop the spider from the cutting board with a spatula and gently lower it into the oil to prevent the plantain bits from breaking up. A kitchen spider is best for scooping the arañitas and the stray plantain bits– pun/coincidence intended!
- Keep a plate lined with paper towels and salt handy. You want to drain and season the arañitas as soon as they are removed from the oil.
Plantain spiders are great enjoyed plain, dipped in mayoketchup, as a snack or a side dish. They make great companions to home stews and soups.