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Ecuadorian Cuisine: A Primer

“Not for the faint of heart” is one verdict on Ecuadorian cuisine, while others gush about the range of foods this lively and diverse Central American country is able to serve up thanks to the varied altitudes and climates.  Like many South American countries, Ecuadorian food is an interesting fusion of native products with old world methods, but the abundance of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables mean that you will never go hungry as you explore this exciting destination.  Here are some ideas of foods to try, depending on your mood. 

“I’m Feeling Really Adventurous Tonight!”

Great!  Begin with some raw seafood, delicately cured in a bath of fresh citrus juice and tossed with fresh herbs and some hot chilies.  This is ceviche, which Peruvians claim the Ecuadorians stole from them.  While ceviche is often associated in North America with upscale dining, south of the border, it is very much street and beach food, so don’t be shy about picking some up from a food cart or truck you encounter on your travels. 

For the main course, you have a choice: the perennial Ecuadorian favorite, cuy, which means guinea pig, which is a messy proposition: these small rodents are meaty and greasy and seriously authentic.  Ask for extra napkins since you have to wrestle with a lot of bones and gristle to enjoy the meat.  Locals take “nose to tail” quite literally with their cuy, relishing the small feet as is. 

If cuy isn’t to your taste, try some librillo, an Ecuadorian specialty akin to Scottish haggis, consisting of the lining of a cow’s stomach, which is chopped up and cooked in a spicy sauce and served over rice. 

“I’d Like to Try Something Local but not the Guinea Pig, please!”

Let’s begin with fanesca, a popular soup that is traditionally served during Lent.  It is based on bacalao (salted, dried cod) that is cooked slowly with a plethora of beans, root vegetables, pulses, and traditionally topped with chopped hard-boiled egg.  Fanesca is a perfect example of a colonial tradition (Portuguese and Roman Catholic) with a local twist.  

Vegetarians might prefer menestras, a spicy lentil stew, accompanied by pan de yuca, a soft bread made from the yuca root.  Or try locro, a delicate cheese and avocado soup.  

If you are a fan of food truck or street food, try pichos, hearty meat, vegetable, and potato kebabs or churrasco, consisting of very thinly sliced grilled steak that is served with fried eggs, rice, french fries, and hot sauce.  If you just want a snack, ask about churo, tiny snails, which are flash fried and served with salt, diced onions, cilantro and lime.  Delicious!

If you’d like to try seafood, be sure ask if the chef got any langoustinos in that day: cooked gently in a tangy lemon, butter, and garlic sauce, these melt in your mouth!

“Do You Have Something Simple I can Recognize?”

Hard to say, and even harder to spell llapingachos are easy to consume.  These potato patties stuffed with cheese are simple and delicious, often served with steak or pork and topped with the ubiquitous fried egg. 

Empanada de morocho are simple corn empanadas or try chodo con questo, which is a boiled ear of corn - rather coarser and more fibrous than North American corn, but served with a soft cheese that pairs wonderfully with it.  This dish is often complimented by a side of beans, making it a suitable meal for vegetarians.  

Don’t leave Ecuador without trying melcocha, a sticky sweet and delicious taffy that will really enrage your dentist. 

Alexander+Roberts serve up itineraries to suit every palate in South and Central America.  Ask about our exciting combination tour The Galapagos by Land + Highlights of Ecuador.

Posted: 11/13/2015 4:09:45 PM by Alexander + Roberts