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Although Puerto Rican food is to a great extent similar to Spanish, Cuban and Mexican cuisine, it is a unique tasty blend of Spanish, African, Taino and American influences, using such indigenous seasonings and ingredients as coriander, papaya, cacao, nispero, apio, plantains and yampee. The principle cooking style in Puerto Rican Cuisine is called “Cocina Criolla”, which literally means Creole cooking. Most American associate Creole cooking with Louisiana’s Cajun Cuisine but that’s not the case here. In the Spanish speaking islands, “Criollo” refers to Spanish Americans of European Descent. Hence “Cocina Criolla” is the cuisine created by the European colonist using their traditional recipes coalesced with native Caribbean foods and cooking styles. Thus, one can find native Spanish influence, cooking techniques and ingredients in Puerto Rican Cuisine.
Cocina Criolla can be traced back actually to the Arawaks and Tainos, the original inhabitants of the island, who thrived on a diet of corn, tropical fruit and sea food. When Ponce de Leon arrived in Columbus in 1493 beef, pork, rice, wheat and olive oil were added to the food stuffs of the island by the Spanish. Soon after that, they began planting sugarcane and importing slaves from Africa, who brought with them okra and taro which are now known in Puerto Rico as Yautia. The mingling of flavors and ingredients passed from generation to generation among the different ethnic groups that settled on the island, resulting in the exotic blend of today’s Puerto Rican Cuisine.
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