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Traditional Ecuadorian Food

In the Andes, potatoes and grilled choclo (corn) are popular and plentiful. Originating from the country's highlands, llapingachos is one of Ecuador's most popular food recipes. The hearty dish centers around a generous mound of cheesy mashed potatoes and is often accompanied by sliced avocado, fried egg, plantains and some form of meat. You can find this highland specialty at local markets, as well as in restaurants in the popular tourist towns of Quito, Otavalo, and Ambato (where it's most famous).

Almuerzos (lunches) and meriendas (dinners) usually offer soup (see Ecuadorian Soup for varieties), a main course, juice and dessert at an economical price. Food sold on the street is quite cheap and smells appetizing, but hygiene is often questionable. When assessing a street vendor or small local restaurant, a good rule to follow is that if the place is frequented by many locals, the food probably merits joining the crowd.

Ají (chili) is a hot sauce made from a spicy red pepper. Although food in Ecuador isn't as spicy as in other Latin American countries, this hot sauce is extremely popular in Ecuadorian food recipes and complements the traditional diet of rice, potatoes and meat. Most Ecuadorian restaurants and homes have their own version of ají. Some types are mild, while others are incredibly spicy, so be sure to sample a bit before smothering it all over your food. If you don’t see a little bowl of ají on your table, just ask—they're sure to have it.

In addition to ají, platos fuertes (main dishes) are often accompanied by a mountain of rice, a small salad, and potatoes or patacones (squashed, fried green plantains). On the coast and in the Amazon, potatoes are often supplemented or replaced by menestra (beans or lentils) or yuca (manioc).

Soups are without a doubt Ecuador's specialty and accompany most lunches and dinners. Ecuadorian soups are incredibly diverse, so travelers should be able to find one that satisfies their appetite.

Other traditional Ecuadorian dishes include seco de pollo, a stewed chicken accompanied by rice and avocado slices; lomo salteado, a thin beef steak covered with onions and tomatoes; and seco de chivo, a goat (though most often made with lamb or mutton) stew served with a mound of rice.

Brave travelers in Ecuador can try native foods like cuy (guinea pig), a traditional Andean dish that dates back to before the days of the Inca. It is generally fried or cooked over an open fire. There is not a lot of meat on a cuy, which tastes like a cross between chicken and pork.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Ecuador: Ecuadorian Soup, Bizcochos, Food and Drink in Ecuador, Fanesca and El Quetzal de Mindo Chocolate Tour.

13 Aug 2012

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