I have been fortunate enough to see a lot of Ecuador, having travelled through the rugged Andes from Otavalo all the way down to Vilcabamba, up the magnificent coast from Guayaquil to Esmeraldas, and through pristine Mindo to the lush Amazon basin.
Through its landscapes, nature, and wildlife, its different cultures and of course La Comida (the food!), the diversity of Ecuador is astonishing, especially when you consider the compact size of the country. From all I have seen on my travels, there is a lot to be said and shared, so much so that it’s overwhelming. The food, however, is something that stands out to me as a perfect representation of this unique little country and its vibrant culture.
As a developing country, Ecuador’s local food is all home-cooked, and you can find quality flavours for great value all around. Whether this be a restaurant in Quito or a street stall en-route to the coast, you will always be able to find something delicious.
To share a few must-try Ecuadorian favourites, let us start in the capital. When wandering around new cities, on-the-go street food is always the best option. There are two street snacks in particular that you must try while in Quito.
Whether walking around the Mariscal tourist district or the historic centre, keep a lookout for the food carts selling Green Mango. This is a sour, sweet, salty delight made from unripe slices of mango, sprinkled with lime and salt– a favourite among business people and school kids alike.
The other essential, also sold on stands or on food carts, is cevichocho! Chochos, considered a new superfood, are a bean that grows wild in the Andes with vivid purple flowers. The chocho is a nutty bean often served with a fresh tomato sauce, onions, tostadas, and chifles. Tostadas are a crispy fried corn tortilla, and chifles are plantain chips, all very popularly served separately as well. It’s an absolutely delicious combination, and I recommend trying it with a spicy sauce called Aji!
The valleys and surrounding mountainous area of Quito, whether you head north to Chimborazo or south to Cuenca, have their own distinct dishes. A popular one that I would recommend you try is the fritada. The fritada, as the name suggests, is fried pork meat served with mote, a puffy white corn which complements the juicy pork meat perfectly. The best ones are cooked over a wood fire and have a smoky taste to the meat. Fritada is also served with a side of plantain for a little sweet kick.This somewhat strange combination of ingredients works really well. Again, if you like a little spice, don’t forget to try it with Aji!
As I have mentioned Plantain a couple of times already, it would be best to also mention the breakfast option that is truly Ecuadorian, whether on the coast or in the mountains: bolon con queso y huevo. This is cooked plantain mashed with cheese and moulded into a ball, then fried. The Bolon is then served with an egg on the side and typically accompanied with coffee or fresh juice. Done well, these have a great flavour and texture, and they’re a budget-friendly and authentic local breakfast!
Something that also shouldn’t be missed in Ecuador is heading to the coast. Besides the jungle-fronted beaches in the north and the secluded empty bays of the south, there is a great selection of seafood, including local octopus and squid.
Possibly my favourite dish in Ecuador is Encocado de Mariscos. This is The Dish!
Encocado means in coconut–this dish is basically a creamy sauce full of fresh mixed seafood served on a white fish fillet. Rice and patacones (crispy plantain cakes) accompany this dish, which is great for soaking up all the lovely, savory sauce.
These are just a few little tasters for those heading to Ecuador. I hope you get to try all of these and more on your visit to this lovely little country. Buen Provecho!