Before my life was consumed with moving and madness, I got to spend a wonderful vacation with my husband visiting family back home in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico is a place that I insist everyone visit and it’s not only because I am from there and of course love it, it because it’s a wonderful place to be. My little island is full of many wonders and delights, especially if we are talking about food.
One of the places I must always visit when I am in Puerto Rico is La Bombonera. It is an iconic and historical restaurant in Old San Juan on Calle (street) San Francisco.
When I was a “know it all” teenager my family moved back to Puerto Rico. My mother, sister and I spent many Saturday mornings having breakfast at La Bombonera. The plan would be to go into Old San Juan for a “paseo” and maybe a tiny bit of shopping. We would park in “el parking de Dona Fela” at the bottom of Old San Juan. Right outside of the parking complex was a plaza where artist would sell their work and an old man with a little cart and a bell would be selling coconut, cherry, and passion fruit “helado”. We would make our way up the steep hill until we reached Calle San Francisco. I remember always being very excited for what awaited me, the fabulous and wonderful mallorca. The thought of the warm fluffily round swirly bun, buttered and covered in powder sugar would make my heart go pitter-pat.
When Obed and I were in Puerto Rico we awoke one morning with nothing to do, I suggested we go for a drive and then have lunch at La Bombonera. That is when Obed told me he had never been. I was in dumbfounded shock when he told me this. I exclaimed, “How could you have never been to La Bombonera,what kind of Puerto Rican are you?” He just shrugged and said, “I’ve just never been”. Total disbelief! This had to be rectified immediately.
La Bombonera was exactly as I remember it, nothing had changed, except the uniforms. They use to wear white button-down shirts with black bow ties and red vests, but now they just wear blue polos. Other then that everything was the same. Same menu, same counter, same Cuban espresso machine from the turn of the century and same delicious treats waiting for you in the window.
We were seated in an orange colored “leather” booth all the way in the back of the dinning room where the A/C was the coolest. Since it was lunch time we were quickly presented with a plate of sliced buttered Cuban bread. Oh sweet wonderful bread, the salt of the Earth. I would eat my body weight in this bread if physically possible, but I was conservative and considered the meal to come. I asked the server for a cold glass of sweet and tart passion fruit juice and started to review the menu.
My eyes were immediately draw to the “Chicharrones de Pollo” one of my favorite dishes. Nuggets of bone-in, skin-on chicken, dredged in flour and fried three times. Hello lover! How could you not love that? It’s like fried chicken and chicken nuggets all in one, but so much better. This fried chicken is not like the American fried chicken you maybe use to. The crispiness of the lightly floured chicken is similar to what you get from pork cracklings. In fact that is what the name is in English, chicken cracklings. I had my “chicarrones” with yellow rice and fried sweet plantains. The sweet plantains where a perfect pairing with my crispy salty “chicarrones de pollo”. Obed order the exact same thing, because you know…he wants to be like me.
I cleaned my plate down to the last little bit. Unfortunately that meant that I left no room for a delicious sweet treat that was waiting for me in the window by the cashier. However I could not justify leaving “La Bombonera” without one of it’s famous mallorcas. We rolled ourselves up to the front to pay and asked the cashier to give us some mallorcas to go. They sat there like a puppy in the window, tempting you with their sweetness and softness. How can you say no to that?
By the time we made our way back home we digested just enough of our lunch and warmed up the mallorcas, spread them with butter and enjoyed them with a hot cup of coffee. Everything was exactly the same…especially the mallorcas.
If you would like to have your own mallorocas or chicharrones de pollo at home checkout these old posts from my archives. I do not claim the mallorca rolls to be like La Bombonera’s but they are still good. The dough is very sticky and can be difficult, just flour as you work with it and try not to over work the dough.2