OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- (UPDATE: Since this story was published, chef Eric Rivera closed Borinquen Soul and opened WEPA! at Brix 581 in Oakland. Jose Ortiz took over the MacArthur Blvd eatery and renamed it La Perla)
When you walk into Borinquen Soul, you hear one thing.
"You're going to hear salsa, blaring," says Eric Rivera, owner of the Puerto Rican eatery in Oakland. "My mom told me you're not really cooking unless you are playing salsa."
Rivera listens to his mom. He got the inspiration to start a restaurant when he could not find food in the Bay Area that compared to his mother's home cooking. So he got cooking lessons from her and opened up his restaurant.
His mother taught him to make arroz con gandules, a dish made of rice and pigeon peas that's usually reserved for the holidays. He makes six big pots of it every day for his customers.
He has a lot of fans and that includes the Oakland A's. The team frequently hires him to cater the player's pregame meals.
Arroz con Gandules (Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas)
The recipe is traditionally made with ham. Rivera sometimes omits it, but adds Worcestershire sauce so the dish does not lose its meaty flavor.
Sofrito is a puree that's a base for many Latin dishes. In Puerto Rico it is called recaito. You can buy it at Latin markets, or you can make a simple version by pureeing 1 onion, 1 green bell pepper, 1 red bell pepper, 3 garlic cloves, 1 bunch of cilantro, if culantro is not available.
2 tablespoon oil
2 cups rice
4 cups water or broth
1/2 cup sofrito
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon powdered cumin
2 bay leaves
1 16 ounce can gandules (pigeon peas)
1/4 cup Spanish olives
1 packet Goya Sazon with achiote
Salt & pepper
Mix packet of sazon, oregano, cumin, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves in hot water or broth and set aside.
Heat oil in a saute pan. Toss in sofrito and olives. Cook for 1 minute. Add rice and mix to coat the seasonings. Add seasoned water or broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook at high heat.
Once most of the water is absorbed, turn the rice over with a spoon to get the top rice to the bottom. Do not over mix or it will get mushy. Lower heat to low and cook for 30 minutes or until rice is tender.
Don't worry if any rice sticks to the bottom. The crispy rice is a favorite of Puerto Ricans. It is called pegao, which means stuck.
Foodie Call: Arroz con Gandules