Chinchorreo A Cheap Food Tour of Puerto Rico

“Queremos que John nos baile la pelua, pelua por aqui, pelua por alla, pelua por alfrente y pelua por detras”

There I was sitting on a bus, the loud sound of chanting ringing in my ears.  Out the window, the sun was setting and painting the soft sand a bright orange.  The teal blue water was heading out deeper into the sea, as the tide set. The image out of the window was calm, quiet, at peace.  Inside the window however, the scene unfolding was one of organized chaos.  Music echoed, Spanish chanting filled the air, people were sitting, jumping, dancing through the isles.  I sat there, on the line, dividing the two worlds.  Tranquility on my left and passion on my right.  I was officially doing chinchorreo.

Puerto Rico Flag – San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, a former Spanish colony, is a United States Territory floating in the Caribbean.  It is a beautiful island, full of wonderful, colorful, and passionate people.  The island itself is 3,508 square miles and full of beautiful beaches, gorgeous mountains, and delicious food!

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rican Mountains – El Yunque Rain Forest

Puerto Rican food is as diverse as the island and carries it’s own unique style. It is an amazing blend, that follows the roots of the countries many influences.

You will find root vegetable such as Yuca, reflecting their Taino heritage, as Caribbean people. Europe and Spain have had a heavy influence by introducing onions, cilantro, chicken, beef, stews, and rice dishes. Africa has left their mark too with coconuts, coffee, and many forms of bananas such as plantains.

Lastly, American’s have begun to heavily influence Puerto Rican food, in ways only we can. It was Americans who introduced the island to fried food and fry food they do.  They do it well, very well.

Chinchorreo – Loiza, Puerto Rico

It is not unusual to have a Puerto Rican meal, that is a full cultural culinary experience, using all of their vast cultural influences.  One meal may consist of boiled or friend yuca, a side of rice and black beans, some form of citrus marinated pork, and a healthy side of fried plantains. It is this amazing blend of continents that creates this delicious plate of food.

There is no shortage of food on the island, however there was a reason I was on that bus. There is a reason you should be too.  That reason is chinchorreo.

Chinchorreo is essentially Spanish for “food hopping” and is the best way to experience true Puerto Rican cuisine.  There are tours you can join, however it is easily done on your own as well.  We had the wonderful experience doing both.  One day on a bus, and since I hadn’t quite had enough (struggling food addict) we took our jeep rental out for round two the next day.

Chinchorro – Loiza, Puerto Rico
Pinchos Hot and Ready – Loiza, Puerto Rico

Most food items you will come across are grilled or fried, but all are delicious.  They are also all amazingly cheap! The items range from $1 and can be as much as $5, though you can’t go wrong with my personal favorite the amazing PINCHO! It is the best, smokiest, flavorful grilled stick of chicken you will ever taste. It will cost you a whole two dollars, which means if your like me you will order 10.

Mari with a Pincho – Loiza, Puerto Rico
El Yunque
Pincho in the Rain Forest, El Yunque, Puerto Rico

When doing chinchorreo you will be stopping at chinchorros.  These can be found all along the coast headed from Condado, into Loiza, and even up into the mountains of El Yunque. They are small food stalls serving up some of Puerto Rico’s cheapest and yummiest eats. Such as…..

Bacalaitos – Fish fritters, usually with salted cod

Sorullitos – Small Fried Sweet Corn Dogs minus the filling

Empanadillas – Meet filled empanadas *delicious oh so delicious

Pincho – Grilled snack sized meat on a stick, generally chicken *my absolute fave

Pionono – plantains stuffed and fried with yummy meat and cheese *perfect sweet and salty

Alcapurrias – Taro root/plantain mixture stuffed with ground beef or chicken and then fried *local favorites

Fried Fish – Loads of fresh fish, fried light and delicious

Alcapurrias – Chinchorro Loiza, Puerto Rico

There are lots of other offerings, but those are the highlights and must try of any chinchorreo trip!

A quick google search will provide you with tons of companies offering guided tours of this great culinary adventure, but don’t overlook the uniqueness that self guided tour can provide. Rent a car and don’t be afraid to get a little lost.

There are plenty of routes, places, and rides to use to enjoy your chinchorreo trip, but make sure you have great friends, a big appetite, and an open mind! A nice view doesn’t hurt either!

El Yunque
Pincho with a view – El Yunque

So there I was on the bus again, every one dancing, everyone chanting….

“Queremos que John nos baile la pelua, pelua por aqui, pelua por alla, pelua por alfrente y pelua por detras”

Loosely translated this mean John dance the pelua (no idea what that is), dance the pelua over there, dance the pelua over here, dance the pelua in the front, dance the pelua in the back.

I may not have danced in the beginning, but ten pinchos and a belly full of fried food later, I danced the rest of the night away.

I hope this encourages you to get out and see Puerto Rico for yourself. Skip the restaurant scene and take yourself out for a night of chinchorreo. You won’t regret it and who knows, maybe it will be you dancing the Pelua.

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Talk to Y’all Soon!

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