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Have Fork, Will Explore: Patacones!

The Have Fork, Will Explore series is a collection of articles that profile interesting eats on the island. Grab a fork and join us!


The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread!

Text by Tina Causey-Bislick

I first discovered the Tia Rosa food truck two years ago at the Tropicana Aruba Resort’s annual Battle of the Food Trucks.  The line at the truck was at least 20 people deep on the first night of the festival.  When hunger strikes, I often lose control of my patience button, so I opted for fare from another vendor with a more appealing wait time.  On the second night of the festival, I decided there must be something special cooking inside this yellow truck, as the line was even longer than the evening before. So I joined the queue to place my order.

While waiting in line, I struck up conversations with those around me.  We were, after all, hungry kindred spirits with not much else to do but chat about, what else—food! Through various conversations I learned that Tia Rosa is normally located in Pos Chikito, and the line for food is almost always long.  The specialty of the house, er truck, is the patacón sandwich.  Philadelphia has its cheesesteak, Chicago heralds its wet Italian beef, Miamians love their Cuban subs, and New Orleans has its po’ boy…well, Venezuelans have the patacón Maracucho, known simply as patacón (paht-ah-CONE).  The Venezuelan city of Maracaibo is thought to be the birthplace of this sandwich that forgoes bread for plantains that are sliced lengthwise, pressed flat, and fried.  In between those yummy crisps is a mountain of ingredients like sliced ham, shredded beef and chicken, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheese, and a secret sauce.

patacon made from flattened unripe plantains
unripe green plantains

The end result is one of the messiest, calorie-infused, crazy-delicious sandwiches I have ever had!  You can get your patacón made with either sweet yellow plantains or the more savory unripe green plantains.  Because I love opposing flavors in my mouth, I opted for the sweet variety to pair with salty ham, queso blanco (a mild white cheese), and avocado.  The sandwich is wrapped tightly in basic white sandwich paper, and it’s recommended to keep it wrapped and peel back the paper as you work your way down the sandwich—it keeps the ingredients inside the sandwich and keeps the sauce from running down your shirt!

patacon sandwich Aruba
patacon sandwich from Tia Rosa snack truck, made with green plantain

Two years later, Tia Rosa is now at the top of my “cheat” list.  It’s reserved for special occasions when I just want a break from a low-carb lifestyle with a little culinary debauchery.  The truck has been going strong for more than 14 years; Tia Rosa herself runs the truck during the day from 6 am to 1 pm, while her daughter, Alexandra Margarita, takes over the evening shift from 6:30 pm to midnight.

Directions from the hotel area:  Take the L.G. Smith Boulevard through town and past the airport, heading towards Savaneta.  Before Savaneta and just after the Pos Chikito roundabout, the Tia Rosa truck can be spotted right off the main road on the right-hand side.

Tia Rosa Food Truck, home of the patacon sandwich in Aruba