There is something about the weather getting warmer that makes me crave typical South American street food, it must be just being able to spend more time outside. Chifles are green banana or green plantain chips, it is now very easy to find the plantain chips in stores in the US (and even Europe – last summer I found them at Carrefour in France). In Ecuador chifles are made with green bananas most of the time, especially in the highlands, though in the coastal areas they are more likely to use green plantains. Either way chifles are delicious when made fresh, it is very typical to have people selling them in small paper bags right outside of schools and different events, the chips are usually drizzled with a salsa rosada – very similar to one for salchipapas. Chifles are also a great side dish for ceviches, as well as an appetizer that goes very well with tomato and onion curtido o r aji criollo hot sauce and cold beer. There is even a brand of packaged chifles in Ecuador called chifles cerveceros (with a yummy spicy version). These yummy plantain chips are also known as mariquitas, chicharitas, platanutres or platanainas, depending on the Latin American country or region.
It is probably easier for most of us who live outside of Latin America to make these with green plantains since green bananas can be hard to find, I am able to find them occasionally and when I do I grab as many as I can get and make chifles, as well as a soup called arvejas con guineo and another soup called repe. It’s funny but I consider ripe bananas to be fruit and green bananas as vegetables. There is a subtle taste difference the two types of chifles, the banana ones have a much more smooth and delicate flavor, while the plantains ones have a stronger chippy flavor, also the color is different, both raw and cooked, the plantains are darker and the green bananas have a more pale color. Another difference is the consistency, the green bananas are very sticky and not as easy to handle, so overall chifles or chips made with green plantains are easier to find and make, but if you do ever find some very green bananas try it and you will taste the difference. If you become a chifle fan and want to try different variations, you can add hot peppers or garlic to the oil to infuse that flavor into the chips.
Homemade recipe for chifles, also known as mariquitas, chicharitas, platanutres, platanitos or plataninas, or thin fried green plantain banana chips.
- Green bananas or green plantains
- Oil for frying – use a type of oil that can handle high temperatures (ie peanut oil)
- Hot pepper or garlic cloves for additional flavor variations
- Peel the green bananas or green plantains; be careful as both tend to stain clothes and cutting boards. The plantains will be easier to peel, but the flesh of the green banana is more likely to stick to its skin.
- Slice the bananas or plantains lengthwise, full length or half length, or slice them as thin rounds or thin diagonal ovals, use a mandolin to get that perfect thinness.
- Heat the oil, either in a deep sauté pan or fryer, ideal temperature for frying these is between 375 F -400 F, there should be enough oil to fully cover the bananas or plantains.
- Add the bananas or plantains to the hot oil; be careful not to overcrowd to keep them from sticking together.
- Fry until the chips get a golden color.
- Remove the chips from the oil and drain on paper towels.
- Sprinkle with salt and serve either warm or cold.