Since I moved to Oakland, I’ve had to give up so many edibles I love that I simply can’t find: perfectly ripened yellow mangoes, crisp Chinese honey pears, pork siopao with pillowy white buns, fresh lumpia with real ubod and not sleazy bean sprouts, halo-halo from Razon’s, gooey Thai palm sugar… ugh. It’s frustrating that so many of my favorite foods and ingredients are out of reach!
A few days ago I realized I missed mojo potatoes, too. It’s such a ridiculous thing to miss, but I do miss it. I used to live fifteen minutes away from a Shakey’s. Every time I was too lazy to cook or it was too hot to walk to any of the nearby cafés on East Capitol Drive, I’d order Shakey’s takeout.
Say what you will about their pizza (and fast food pizza in general), but having a Shakey’s nearby was awesome. As far as I’m concerned, their pizza was an accompaniment to the potatoes, and not the other way around.
In any case, mojo potatoes seemed to be the easiest item to cross off my list of unattainable food. This week, I took a look at a couple of mojo potato recipes online. While some of them had interesting techniques, they didn’t seem to fit right. So this is what I came up with on first try.
My Homemade Mojo Potatoes
2 to 3 large russet potatoes
corn or vegetable oil
In a large and roomy pot, heat at least four to five inches of cooking oil. While waiting for this to warm up, prepare your ingredients.
In a bowl, combine around one teaspoon of garlic salt, one teaspoon of paprika, and around 1/2 teaspoon of pepper with around 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Set this aside for the moment, too.
Wash and scrub the potatoes well. Remove any eyes or unsightly blemishes from the skin but do not peel all of it off. Slice into 1/8 to 1/4 inch rounds. Pat dry with clean kitchen towels to absorb any excess moisture.
When the oil is ready, dunk your potato slices into the beaten eggs. Shake off any excess egg and dredge the potatoes in your flour mixture. Try to get an even coating on both sides.
Deep fry the potato slices in batches, as not to overcrowd the pot, for around five minutes or until they turn golden brown. Remove the fried pieces and drain on clean paper towelling before serving.
Maybe because it’s been almost two years since I’ve had any mojo potatoes, but these tasted like home to me. I think I got the texture right. Mojo potatoes seem like they are baked but they aren’t—they don’t have a crispy exterior and the insides are soft. My family enjoyed this effort—my nephews gobbled those taters up faster than I made them.
I regret not doing any exact measuring, but that’s how home cooking can be sometimes—I’m perennially shooting from the hip.