My breakfast of choice when staying on the coast of Ecuador is tigrillo, a casserole style dish of mashed green plantains, egg, and cheese. It’s absolutely delicious. If you love potatoes for breakfast, you should really give this a try. Ecuadorians eat it by the plateful, claiming that the green plantain sticks to ribs and provides the body with energy for the rest of the day. Since plantains are carbohydrates, they’re probably right! Throw in some ají (Ecuadorian hotsauce) and tigrillo could easily be called the breakfast of champions!
A few weeks ago, I found myself in the Sierran town of Pacto and, to my surprise, I tigrillo was on the menu of the hotel where we were staying. For those of you who don’t know, Pacto is only a couple of hours from Quito, on the west slope of the Andes. Pacteños disagree as to whether their region is of the Coast or of the Sierra. Geographically, it is located between both but since there is no firm line dividing them, it can be hard to tell. Pacto isn’t cold like the high Sierra and has a lush, humid climate year round. But it is still hours away from the nearest beach and there is not a lot of flat land to be found. So geographically, it’s a toss up. When it comes to culture, I would need to delve into this region a little longer before making an actual decision. For now, I’ve decided that one of the best tigrillos I’ve eaten in Ecuador can be found just a little closer to Quito than the coast.
And I have good news! The owner and chef at La Cañita, Gloria Revalo, shared her recipe with us! Like most Ecuadorians, Gloria does not measure with cups and tablespoons but eyeballs ingredients as she tosses them into the mix. If you are comfortable with a little guesswork, this is a recipe you have to try. And more good news! The ingredients are easy enough to find in the United States.
For every person eating, prepare one full green plantain by peeling, boiling, and mashing, as described in the recipe for Bolón de Verde. For four people, that’s four green plantains. Gloria adds chopped onion that has been pan fried in achiote oil. You might have to use a mild flavored cooking oil and add a 1/4 teaspoon of powered achiote or annatto. The recipe to this point can be prepared up to 24 hours beforehand.
In a separate pan, add pork lard with bits of fried pork belly to a hot saute pan. If you would like to make your own lard with chicharón, follow this recipe from Serious Eats. If you want to skip this step, or don’t have lard or leftover bacon drippings, use vegetable oil instead.
Crack eggs into the hot lard. Use two eggs for every person eating. For our four person recipe, that means using 8 eggs. Gloria is cooking for 5 so you will end up seeing a 10 egg scramble.
Scramble the eggs in the pan. Most people who make tigrillo scramble their eggs in this manner. If you prefer not to see the whites, you can whisk the eggs in a bowl before adding them to the pan.
While the eggs are cooking, grate the fresh cheese. The amount you grate is to taste but about a 1/4 cup per person seemed good. That would be 1 cup of grated cheese for our 4 person recipe.
Add the mashed green plantain mixture to the scrambled eggs.
Blend the scrambled eggs and green plantain mash and allow the mixture to heat through.
Add the grated cheese and lightly fold the mixture.
Your tigrillo is ready to plate!
And your tigrillo is already to serve! Gloria likes to garnish her platter with fresh sliced tomatoes dressed in a little olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and chopped cilantro. ¡Buen Provecho!
If you know of a recipe for tigrillo that you would like to share, send it in! We would love to share your version of this popular dish.