Foodies Guide to Ecuador

Eat your way around…

One of my favorite things about Ecuador is food. Admittedly, it took a while to see past the mountains of greasy white rice served at every meal and look at the rest of the plate. Like many people I know, I’m not fond of white rice and rarely eat it. I’m not a great meat-eater either, preferring seafood. Despite this, I have discovered over the five years I’ve lived here that Ecuadorian cuisine boasts some of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten.

One of the best ways to introduce yourself to Ecuadorian cuisine is visit a local food market. The range of exotic tropical fruits will blow your mind. Crate upon crate of vegetables you’ve never heard of are stacked high, and selling for a song. Magical aromas waft from the kitchens, enticing one to come and eat, even if you don’t understand what you are ordering. One of my favorite food markets is Santa Clara in Quito. Every imaginable food group is covered, from the humble Artichoke to exotic Zapotes, and everything in between.

Wandering amongst the stalls you begin to see the bones in the rich soup of Ecuador’s cuisine. Ignore the mountain of rice. In fact, you can “de-order” it with a simple phrase:

“. . . sin arroz, por favor . . .”

Bananas are a staple food in Ecuador

Bananas are another staple in Ecuador. Boiled green bananas. Fried green bananas. Mashed green bananas. Baked green bananas. Barbequed green bananas. Grilled green bananas. Chipped green bananas. Grated green bananas. Dried green bananas. Then, when they ripen, there are a million other ways to prepare the humble banana. And we haven’t even started on the vast varieties of bananas available; bromiches, dominiques, garrabanetes, chilenas, moradas. After years of rampant banana consumption, I could write a book about how to prepare, cook and eat bananas. I’d call it Going Bananas! Seriously.

While a native of the country cannot imagine a meal without rice, and may even exchange a glance with their compatriots at your supposed lack of appetite, they’ll compensate by putting an extra spoon of food on your plate to ensure you don’t go hungry or, even better, more grilled bananas. Bananas are served with many dishes, as patacones, chifles, maduro, and verde to name a few.

One of my favorite dishes is Encebollado: a fresh albacora and yucca soup served with finely sliced red onions and chopped cilantro, accompanied by Chifles: thin banana chips. A squeeze of lime and a dash of home-made chili sauce and breakfast is ready. Encebollado is a popular breakfast soup and there are plenty of eateries to slurp this hearty soup, surrounded by locals enjoying it too.

For me, a vital part of the food experience is getting to know the natives. While you don’t have to eat roasted suckling pigs, barbecued guinea pigs, armadillos in coconut sauce and wild pecari with vegetables if you don’t want to, pulling up a stool at a local eatery can often be more rewarding than the food itself. Apart from meeting some fabulous people, I discovered Muchin this way.

Muchin is a traditional coastal dish, baked bananas and fresh cheese wrapped in a bijao leaf and baked over hot coals. It can be eaten hot or cold, and the wrapper is biodegradable. In fact, food cooked in a leaf rocks! Tamales are up there too: green plantain banana wrapped around a filling of meat, chicken or seafood in a rich tomato sauce. These are wrapped in leaves and boiled. No rice required.

Another of my Top 10 is Corviche: green plantain banana patted into balls with an albacore filling and fried. After it’s cooked, it’s split and filled with salad and mayonnaise or chili sauce. I don’t do mayo, but pile on the home-made chili sauce. If you’re into chili, this is definitely for you! Two Corviche for a cheap and cheerful lunch or a snack is great tasting, nutritious and filling.

When you’re traveling along the volcano belt, vendors selling packets of fried hava beans line the streets. Buy some. These beat the nutritional value out of potato crisps by a long shot and your taste buds will thank you.

This list is far from complete. In fact, each great Ecuadorian dish needs its own post. I’ve not even mentioned Seafood Encocado or 100% cacao organic chocolate yet. Watch this space…

For Foodie Tours of Ecuador, get in touch with Footprints.

Footprints Ecuador

  • Footprints Ecuador: Dedicated Foodie Tours
    Footprints Ecuador helps you custom design and plan your trip to Ecuador, inc. Galapagos Cruises, Island Hopping, Scuba Diving, and also travel on the mainland inc. Otavalo, Cotopaxi, Mindo, Quito, Cuenca & more. Take a Foodies Tour of Ecuador!
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