Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ecuador 1

Yes, I am in Ecuador for the summer. At first it was only going to be 5 weeks, but then I fell in love. This country is amazing. Beautiful, vibrant, laid back, struggling, singing and rich with everything from culture to colors to the morning sun shining through the hazy mists of an Andean morning.
And the food ain't bad to boot.
Here in Cuenca (3rd largest city in Ecuador) lunch is the biggest meal of the day, and everyone comes home from school or work to enjoy it. It begins with some type of cream-based (usually) soup - potato, carrot, corn... - followed by a plate that almost always includes rice and some type of potatos, some sort of vegetable salad, and a protein (beef, chicken, fish, shrimp...)
Breakfast is usually fresh bread with fruit, yogurt, eggs and coffee, and Dinner is something light - a smaller version of lunch, a sandwhich or even a glass of yogurt.
Another great thing about Ecuador is the fresh fruit juice. Every family makes their own from fresh fruits, a different version every day. This is even cooler for foreigners like me who are new to a lot of the tropical fruits that we don't have back home, like Tomate de Arbol (tree tomato) which is tangy and sweet, Naranjilla which is somehow tarter but also sweeter than Orange Juice, Babaco which is like a melon that grows from a tree - not to mention the freshness of the regulars like mango, pineapple, passion fruit, blackberry etc...
Ecuadorians also love sugar. LOVE sugar, and they satisfy this love with copious amounts of ice creams, yogurts, sweet rolls, and baked goods/confections of every kind. This week is the celebration of Corpus Christi and it is celebrated by week-long selling of every sweet you've ever seen by vendors in the central plaza.
But enough of that, and on to pictures of the food. I will continue to update this blog with the most interesting and tasty plates that come along, but it will not be a travelogue like the one I did for Japan. Simply a way to show you all the goodstuff that Ecuador has to offer, and why you should be jealous that I am spending a summer here.

Here's a typical dish called Llapingachos (yapingachos), which are small pattys of potato mashed with achote and then fried. They are served with a fried egg, spicy pork, and garnished with avacado, fried sweet plantains, and Mote which is boiled andean corn kernels (think chewable hominy).

Another typical dish, though from the coast is called Encocado, which is some sort of seafood - here fish and shrimp - served in a sweet and spicy coconut sauce alongside rice and fried sweet plantain or tostones which are fried and salted green plantains.

Ecuador is also known for its Ceviches of all varieties. Fish, Shrimp, Squid, Shellfish, Conch, Shark... The seafood may vary, but so far the general composition seems to be the same. I broke the rules on the second day of the trip - not to eat streetfood - and I'm glad I did, because it was tasty, even though I later found out that the conspicuous rubbery, gray seafood was probably of the shark variety...
Chopped tomatoes and red onion mixed with boiled white beans, topped with seafood and then a squirt of tomato and lemon juice, and then topped with Tostada - toasted andean corn kernels that taste like inside out popcorn, plantain chips, and salt. AWESOME and refreshing on a hot day. Plus, it onlycost 75 cents...

Also, here is a picture of one of the street vendors at Corpus Christi. I bought a fist-sized gallta de Coco which felt like it had a whole coconut in it and was probably the best macaroon i've ever had. But there were all kinds of goodstuff, like doughnut-type things with the consistency of a cookie soaked in glaze and sprinkles, wafer cones filled with dulce de leche, caramel popcorn balls, pastries filled with cream... this is not even a beginning.

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