Ecuador is a country that completely flies below the global culinary radar. It is far from well-known, and entirely under-appreciated by even the most curious food magazines searching for unknown dishes all over the world to entice readers.
^ The sauce that ties it all together - Ecuadorian Aji Salsa ^
Image From: http://www.confiesoquecocino.com/ajicero-criollo/
Part of why Ecuadorian food stays under the radar, is because we are neighbors with Peru – the worst kept secret in South American cuisine. Not only does Peru have some of the most interesting and delicious food in the western hemisphere, but their world class restaurants might be the most affordable of their status on Earth. But that’s not all.
Ecuadorian cuisine is 95% different takes on classic dishes. Family recipes that have stood the test of time, pack a calorie punch, and everyone’s abuela (grandma) has a better version than the next. Everywhere you go, is another version. A different variety of corn, ratio of lime juice to minced onion, opinion of grill heat to reach cooked perfection.
The chefs grabbing our attention here in Ecuador may not 5-star, but they are likely the pride of their family using valuable recipes – ones that haven’t ever been written down – and they’re not to be overlooked.
Locro De Papa is a creamy potato soup with cheese and avocado.
Image from: https://anamariareyes2000.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/locro-de-papas/
With that, here are a few of our recommendations of foods to taste during your stay in Ecuador. You, too, can eat well in Ecuador.* This is just the beginning. More to come in this series of posts on Ecuadorian food soon!
*We recommend eating these – and everything – at huecas.
Ají salsa – Named for the pepper that is used to make it, ají salsa (or just, “ají,” pronounced “ah-HEE”) is THE special sauce of the country. While not technically a dish on its own, ají is worth its weight in gold – so we’re gonna talk about it.
Super utilitarian, ají can come bright red or light orange in color, super spicy or subdued, blended or chopped. This sauce is for most any savory dish, and has, like Darwin’s Finches, evolved differently in different parts of the country. On the coast, you’ll find a much stronger vinegar flavor, along with chopped peppers visible in the sauce, while in the mountains, you’ll often find the sauce blended, and more viscous.
What’s not to love? Put it on everything. Try every ají. Especially the home-made ones. Watch out for spiciness though!
Served with Rice? 1000% yes.
Locro de papa – an excellent first meal in Ecuador, locro de papa (often referred to just as “locro”) has a salty broth that is very friendly to travelers. Ecuadorians will often eat soup every day as the starting dish with lunch, and you’ll be lucky to have locro as your starter, as it is a slightly special dish.
What’s not to love? – It’s a creamy-smooth soup often served with fresh cheese and avocado.
Served with Rice? – No, actually.
The incredible pork dish, Hornado.
Image from: https://soryelena.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/301/
Hornado – a mixed plate based on slow roasted pork. A true hornado comes from a full pig, roasted till the meat melts in your mouth and the skin is nice and crunchy. The meat comes out exactly like pulled pork, but instead of BBQ sauce, this one comes with mote, tostado, and salsa agri-dulce and avocado salad (steamed corn, toasted corn, and a home-made sweet and sour sauce). This filling dish is super-popular in and around Quito.
What’s not to love? – Pulled pork came down to Ecuador and made great friends with some locals (corn and avocados).
Served with Rice? – No – but starch-lovers can still enjoy two types of corn, along with a common potato side dish, llapingachos. *Phew!*
Shrimp Encocoado, a favorite on the coast.
Encocado – on the coast, treat yourself to an encocado (“in coconut sauce”), or 7. This is a dish with a wonderful variety of styles you can find all up and down the coast, where coconuts are a-plenty, and so are the shrimp and fish that are most often used in this stew-like platter.
What’s not to love? – Tropical, coastal food on the coast, somewhere within _____ miles of the Equator. (Fun fact: “Ecuador” is “equator” in Spanish. Juuuuuuuust in case.)
Served with Rice? Yes.
Go forth to Ecuador and eat well!