After six days, around twenty meals, and an obscene amount of fried food in Puerto Rico, I am ready to name the best thing I ate this week: deep fried red snapper. We found it at the Ceviche Hut in Luquillo, one of the sixty kiosks that trim the beach along the northeast coast. It is one of the two proper restaurants (the other, La Parilla, serves a pretty spectacular octopus salad) in the complex and is an unassuming beachside restaurant sandwiched between fried food stalls and souvenier shops.
We sat beside the open kitchen and caught a glimpse of the chef inspecting the day’s special, three large red snappers. All other tempting menu items seemed insignificant compared to these plump and unmistakably fresh fish. We easily could have gotten away with just one to share, but Papa Parla and I ordered one each. We watched as the chef sank the two fish with scored skin into a deep pan of hot oil, cooking them for about six minutes on each side.
As the fish fried, the chef cut down two plantains from the bunch hanging in the kitchen to prepare our side dish, tostones. He peeled them, and eased them into the frier. After a few minutes, he pulled them out, smashed them between a cutting board and a pyrex dish, and threw the flattened plantains into back into the hot oil for a few minutes. Once they were done cooking, the chef plated the tostones, gently settled the fish on top of them, and served us the sweetest, freshest fried snapper I have ever eaten.