Why It Works
- Frying the plantains at a moderate temperature gives them plenty of time to caramelize.
- The cut of the plantain will determine the cooking time: Long, diagonal slices with more surface area will take a bit longer to cook through than diced plantain.
Dodo (no, not the bird) is a simple preparation of sweet, ripe plantains that’s well-loved across Nigeria. You’ll find it sliced and deep-fried as a snack, enjoyed as the main event alongside stews, sauces, fried yams, and sweet potatoes (another popular street food), or served as an accompaniment to rice and beans.
The best plantains for dodo, in my mind, have yellow skins speckled with a few black spots and give a little when pressed, which together indicate a degree of ripeness that will deliver soft, sweet fried plantains with crispy edges. Others prefer to use completely black plantains for their candy-like sweetness and custardy texture, while some opt for firm, starchy yellow or green ones.
Preferences also come into play when preparing the plantains. Some dodo lovers welcome the plantains cut to any shape and size. Others are particular that the dodo should be cut in a way that makes sense for how they'll be served: small cubes to accompany jollof rice, rounds to pair with stewed beans, or sliced on a bias in larger slabs to serve as more of a main dish. For me, small pieces make sense for pairings where dodo is a side or accompaniment―a spoonful of diced dodo and creamy beans balance one another better than a larger slice of plantain would. It’s all about the ratios! And when I’m having dodo on its own, a mouthful of caramelized sweetness that larger slices provide paired with just a touch of sauce, allows the deliciousness of dodo to shine.
However the plantains are cut, the next decision is how and whether to season, with salt being the most common option. Some don’t salt their plantains, however I, and others like me, appreciate the intense “swalty” (sweet and salty) flavors that come from salting. Plantains don’t have a high moisture content so salting them before frying doesn’t draw out any liquids―it is purely for flavor. (Texturally, they also feel less gritty post-salting and frying.) In addition to salt, you can season with one or more warming spices, such as cayenne, ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, to complement the caramelized plantain, which is typical of Ghana’s kelewele, a spiced fried plantain dish. When it comes to cooking, dodo is fried in vegetable oil, unrefined red palm oil, or a combination of both (to temper the smoky flavor of palm oil) until golden brown.
Dodo is a dish I eat often, which means I always have ripe plantains on hand. Its sweet, caramelized flavor and versatility as an appetizer, side dish, or main course can’t be beat. Since its texture changes after refrigeration and reheating (becoming dense, chewy, and even chalky), dodo is best when it’s freshly fried.
- 2 large ripe yellow plantains with black spots (about 1 1/4 pounds; 510g), peeled
- 3/4teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume
- 2 quarts (1.9L) vegetable oil, for frying
Using a sharp knife, cut plantains into the shape and size of your choosing: ½-inch dice, ⅓-inch thick rounds, or ⅓-inch thick slices on the bias.
Place plantains in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat; set aside.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 200°F (95°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat to 350°F (175°C). Add half of the plantains and fry, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer plantains to prepared baking sheet, then transfer to oven to keep warm.
Return oil to 350°F (175°C) and repeat with remaining plantains. Transfer plantains to a bowl and serve.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Fried plantains are best enjoyed immediately, though leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container overnight; reheat in the microwave, in a skillet with oil, or in a moderate oven.
In Step 2, you can add 3/4 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of a spice blend (like pumpkin spice or apple spice) or a combination of ground cayenne pepper, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, and ground cloves.