In Puerto Rican cuisine there is a popular dish known as pastelitos, or meat pies, which entails the use of plantain leaves. A portion of cornmeal and meat filling is place on a leaf, which is then folded to give the meat pie its shape. Lastly, the meat is carefully removed from the plantain leaf and then deep-fried, hopefully retaining its form.
Nuyoricans found this time-consuming and developed their own way of cooking this cornmeal dish. Nuyoricans, by the way, is the term applied to Puerto Ricans born or raised in New York. It was initially a derogatory term used by the islanders to describe this populace, but they eventually took the term as their own and use it as a measure of pride.
Nuyoricans’ pastelitos omit the plantain leaf. They shape the cornmeal mixture with their hands or, better still, using two spoons and then deep-fry the mixture. Many families never use the term pastelitos. To them, these were simply rellenos de harina de maíz or stuffed cornmeal balls. To this day they make a great appetizer or an entrée served with vegetables or over yellow rice.