A gastronomy that stands out for the Creole mix born of local products and the "new" (Spanish and African, fundamentally), and that leads to an infinity of aromas and flavors. In addition, there are three geographical zones - coast, sierra and jungle - that will contribute with very varied recipes. Then there are the Galapagos Islands, an oasis free of exploitation with a very distinct cuisine. While more fish and seafood are eaten on the coast, meats and tubers are more common in the sierra. The soups are popular throughout the territory, so if, like me, you are a soup lover, this is your country (awesome Ecuadorian soups). I also take this opportunity to congratulate the cilantro lovers!
It is an economic country for the backpacker, because in every corner you can find food stalls, markets or family kitchens serving meals for all budgets. Menu of the day is your cheapest choice, which usually includes a soup, a main dish and a drink (sometimes includes dessert). Bueno, bonito y barato (delicious, nice and cheap).
Eating menu with my family. The pack (soup, main course and drink) usually costs between 1 and 2 dollars.
However, it is worth exploring the culinary art of Ecuadorian recipes by ordering typical dishes from time to time. I am not an expert in Ecuadorian food, and my goal is not to make an exhaustive review of all the dishes of the territory, but to show a bit of the enormous variety that exists in this delicious Creole cuisine to encourage people to come to this tasty nation and sit at the table to eat, or, failing that, prepare recipes from their homes. And to make it clear, once again, that gastronomy is something wonderful and one of the most important reasons to travel and discover new worlds.
In Ecuador there are many typical drinks and beverages, among which we can mention: aguardiente, canelazo, rompope or morocho. But if there is an important drink in the culture that is the chicha.
It is a fermented beverage made of corn with a certain alcohol content very popular in the Andean countries. Other cereals and foods can also be used, such as quinoa, grapes, apples or, even (in the jungle), yucca. But corn is the most used by far. There are dozens of varieties, which we will not describe here (mostly because I am not a chicha shaman), but what is really important is the weight it has in culture, embedded in the roots for thousands of years. People drink it in rituals like the Inti Raymi and also in the street in everyday life. Here you can watch a video in which Doña Yolanda and company prepare the chicha de yamor, a chicha that has no more or less than seven different varieties of corn!
Good job Yolanda!
JUGOS AND LICUADOS
We are talking about juices and smoothies. The variety of fruits (and vegetables) in the country is amazing. But even more amazing is its quality. Maybe an Ecuadorian does not give it enough credit because he/she has always had it, but when someone from outside, for example, a European, arrives in Ecuador and sees all those colors and flavors together, he feels he has landed in paradise. There are as many juices and smoothies as one wants to imagine, because you can mix different fruits and vegetables. Strawberry, pineapple, papaya, banana, guava, mango, melon, blackberry, orange, naranjilla, avocado... Alfalfa, beet, tamarind, carrot... You can try as many as you want because, in addition to be delicious and refreshing they are cheap. Some days I only fed on these exotic liquids. My favorite is the classic papaya smoothie or papaya with banana. I am a simple guy.
STARTERS AND STREET FOOD
TAMALES AND HUMITAS
These typical dishes of the Andean countries (especially Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, but we can also find them in the north of Argentina and Chile) consist of masses of corn lightly seasoned, wrapped and cooked in the own leaves of corn. Some differences 1) While the humita is usually fresh corn, grated and crushed in the mortar, the tamale is usually made with corn flour. 2) Tamales may contain other ingredients (including meats), and may be wrapped in leaves of other plants (such as banana, avocado, bijao or maguey) during cooking.
CHOCLO CON QUESO (CORN WITH CHEESE)
One of my favorites for its taste and authenticity. The corn is boiled in water with sugar and anise, then eaten with cheese. But real cheese, 100 x 100 homemade (usually using alpaca or sheep's milk).
BOLA DE VERDE (Ball of green, literally)
This recipe, considered a national dish of Ecuador, has the green banana as a star ingredient, of which Ecuador is one of the largest producers worldwide. It is a ball the size of a fist that is prepared based on a dough made with green banana, previously roasted or fried. Such dough may have some additional ingredient, like cheese or fried meat. You can eat it directly or fry it in oil until the outer part is golden and crunchy. Here is a short explanatory video:
This simple "invention" that I loved and that you can find in any corner of the country also has the green banana as the “main character”. They are basically thick pieces of banana that are fried in olive oil for a few minutes until they acquire a golden hue. Then they are crushed with an utensil similar to a roller that is known as pataconera (also known as tostonera), after which they are fried again until they are completely golden and crispy. The patacones are usually a side dish of different dishes.
Thin bread doughs (wheat or corn flour) stuffed with food. They can be cooked in the oven or in the pan. The filling can include different varieties of meats, vegetables, cheese, fruits, etc. You can choose some of the classic recipes: empanada de morocho (corn and rice), empanada de verde (green banana and cheese), empanada de viento (flour and cheese… and sugar). Or you can be creative and invent a new recipe!
And you can always find them on the street
ENCEBOLLADO (FISH SOUP WITH ONIONS)
Very popular fish soup from the coastal area in general (original from Manabí). It is a stew of fish accompanied by yucca and pickled red onion, with a dressing prepared with onions, fresh tomato, cumin, chili powder… and other spices that you want to add. Albacore is the most used fish for this recipe, although others, such as tuna or weevil, can also be used. I am getting hungry!
LOCRO (or locro of potatoes with cheese)
Creamy soup based on potatoes with cheese and avocado. It is very popular in the Andean area, especially in the north of the country and around Quito (locro quiteño). In addition to potatoes and cheese, you can add various ingredients: meat, shrimp, corn, onion, peanuts... Watch and learn this delicious recipe!
BOLAS DE VERDE SOUP (BALLS OF GREEN SOUP)
Soup made of beef consommé (including the cow’s tail), balls of green banana with meat, and other ingredients, such as corn or yucca. It has a high nutritional value.
Another delicious and nutritious soup (rich in phosphorus). The fish used is the catfish or camchimala fish, a very nice fish with whiskers. The catfish is cooked along with tomato, yucca, garlic, oil, cilantro, cumin, pepper and salt.
Soup of cod, pumpkin, chochos, lupins, beans, lentils, peas, corn... And up to a total of twelve beans and grains. It is usually garnished with boiled eggs, fried plantains and parsley.
Puree made of boiled pumpkin, which is subsequently crushed altogether with chicken broth or vegetables.
The prawns, the lobster (specialty in the Galapagos Islands) and the cangrejada stand out. The latter can be prepared with several species of Ecuadorian crabs, among which are the pangora, the jaiba, the blue one and the red one. These crabs are boiled along with a preparation of onion, cilantro, pepper, oregano, cumin, salt and green bananas. The wonderful result is presented with a salad of onion, canguil and chifles (banana chips).
I'm sorry, pincers. Lobster of the Galapagos
ENCOCADO DE CAMARONES (SHRIMPS) O PESCADO (FISH)
Popular recipe in all the coast (original of Esmeraldas). The shrimp are marinated with lemon and spices, then cooked in a cilantro sauce made of onion, tomatoes, peppers and - most important of the dish - coconut milk. It is served with rice. Here there is a video with the recipe step by step:
This dish of fish (or seafood) macerated in lemon is part of the culinary of various Latin American countries with access to the Pacific Ocean. In Ecuador, the most common form is shrimp ceviche (but they also have fish, shell, octopus, squid, lobster or crab ceviches), which is prepared with boiled shrimp, lemon juice, orange juice, tomato sauce, cilantro, pepper, and chopped red onion (in large quantities). The recipes vary regionally, using or doing without the orange juice and/or the tomato sauce and mustard. Usually presented with patacones, chili, and chifles.
CEVICHOCHOS (CEVICHE OF LEGUMES)
Vegetarians have an ally in this recipe to experience ceviche. It is prepared from chocho seeds (a type of bean) in a similar way to how traditional ceviche is prepared: combined with lemon, salt, onion, tomato sauce, toasted corn and fried banana.
They are a kind of tortillas or empanadas made of potato and stuffed with cheese. They are usually accompanied with fried egg, chorizo or sausage (or other meat), cheese, avocado, peanut sauce, lettuce, onions, rice...
Two recipes that use pork in Ecuadorian cuisine are the hornado and the fritada. The first consists of a roast pork served with llapingachos, corn and other vegetables. In the fritada the pork is cooked first in spicy water, then fried with the pork's own fat. It is also served along with llapingachos, plus boiled potatoes, corn, green banana...
Popular cutlet of beef cooked on the grill. It is usually accompanied by other foods such as eggs, rice, potatoes, onion, avocado, salad, garlic... As well as some sauces.
Stew made of pieces of stomach of cow along with others, like onion, potatoes, tomato and peppers, in addition to other dressings, like peanut butter, peanuts, beans, coriander and other spices. It is considered a national dish. Do not miss the recipe, my friends:
The first time I saw this guinea pig inserted into a stick, rotating on its own axis over the embers it struck me a little. But, although some may be surprised that they eat it ("but how come? It is a domestic animal!"), this rodent was already part of the diet of the men and women who inhabited these lands more than 7000 years ago, when it was domesticated (to eat it, among other things). This rodent from the Andes is considered a delicacy in the region and is given a very important nutritional value (it contains many proteins, omega 3 and is fat-free). It can be cooked fried or roasted, as well as being served the whole animal or being part of other dishes (locro de cuy, cuy potato soup, ají de cuy, cuy with mote...). It is usually presented with potatoes, corn and salad.
Cuy, millennial food
There are many Ecuadorian desserts, but here I will not talk about them. But I do want to talk a little about the melcocha!
We finish with this homemade sweet typical of the country (specialty of Baños) to end with a good taste in your mouth. It is made of sugar cane, from which the liquid is extracted and mixed with the slime of the Guacimo tree (which gives it thickness). The mixture is boiled, forming a honey or thick syrup, also known as panela. And here comes the artistic part (and more difficult), which is to give shape to the melcocha.
If you have the chance, go to a panela factory, like this one near Vilcabamba
If you are really interested in making Ecuadorian recipes, you can try a YouTube channel, like this one: