For me, being Ecuadorian means I’d have green plantains for every meal if possible. I think having green plantains along with morning coffee is probably the best way to start the day. A quite popular breakfast on the coast of Ecuador is tigrillo, a fried green plantain scramble with buttery eggs and crumbled cheese.
The origins of this dish started in coastal towns in the southern region, like Zaruma. Tigrillo is also served in the Andean region, but breakfasts in Andean cities like Quito or Ibarra would be more likely to feature oven-baked bread with homemade fruit jam. In any coastal city, the preferred breakfast includes green plantain dishes, like tigrillo or bolón, a green plantain fritter served with fried eggs.
Tigrillo starts with chopped green plantains—fried not once but twice, for the most flavorful base—which get mixed together with sautéed scallions, scrambled eggs, and melted queso fresco. It is served with sprinkled cilantro over the top, and accompanied by a cup of coffee.
There are those who add fried bacon or chicharrón to the recipe, for extra saltiness and crunch, but this version is vegetarian. If you’re looking for a creamier texture, add an additional teaspoon of butter or one more egg to the recipe.
Something interesting about the recipe is its name: tigrillo is the Spanish word for “ocelot,” a wildcat species famous for its golden skin—the exact same brightness the fried plantains bring to this plate.
—Maria Silvia Aguirre
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 25 minutes
- Serves 2
large (about 1½ pounds) green plantains, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks (about 2½ cups)
unsalted butter, plus additional as desired
large scallions, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
large eggs, whisked
crumbled or shredded queso fresco (or full-fat mozzarella)
chopped fresh cilantro
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high and add all the plantain chunks in a single layer. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes, flipping with a heat-safe spatula halfway through, until they are a bright yellow color all around. Remove them from the pan and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate (or a wire rack placed over a sheet pan) to absorb some of the excess oil. Turn off the heat, leaving the remaining frying oil and skillet on the stove.
- Use a wooden pestle (or the flat bottom of a glass or small bowl) to smash the plantains flat, about ½ inch thick.
- Reheat the oil over medium and fry the plantains until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan, turn off the heat, and transfer to a plate lined with fresh paper towels (or the same wire rack). Immediately season the tops of each fried plantain with salt. Let them cool for a couple of minutes, then chop each plantain slice into 4 to 5 small pieces (it’s okay if they are uneven).
- Drain the oil from the pan into a heat-safe vessel (once cool, you can discard it in the trash or save it to use for another fried dish). Add the butter to the pan and melt over medium heat. Add the scallions and season with salt and pepper. Stir with a wooden spoon and let cook until the scallions are tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Return the fried plantain pieces to the pan and mix constantly for about 2 minutes.
- Add the whisked eggs to the pan and reduce the heat to low. Continue mixing until everything is incorporated and the eggs are not quite cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the cheese and mix until it is melted. Turn off the heat and let the mixture rest for 2 to 3 minutes. Divide between 2 plates or bowls, top with cilantro, and serve hot with a cup of coffee.