With my experience as a guide for several years in Ecuador, these are the top things travelers find a bit shocking, do not know how to eat, or think twice before eating in terms of Ecuadorian food and drinks.
My name is Amanda I am a local Ecuadorian guide and for me, it is rewarding to be able to write about this small things, but in my opinion, important facts!
In terms of food, I always encourage visitors to try new things. I am convinced that, after tasting, they certainly will be able to make a good judgment and does not matter whether they like it or not.
“Food enters through your eyes” is a universal saying, and in Ecuador is not necessarily true all the time, we don´t really take much of our time decorating dishes, we probably spend more of our time making it tasty, so in Ecuador not always a good or bad looking dish will be the best. So just try it!
Ecuadorian food and drinks facts
Popcorn with roasted yellow corn is typically served in the center of the table as little bites, an entry to share, in Spanish, we call it a “Picadita”. In other countries, you only see popcorn at the movie theater or when you watch a movie at home, but here we eat popcorn also with the wide variety of soups as part of Ecuadorian food.
Since some restaurants won’t take the time to list every ingredient that an empanada has inside and or what the dough for the empanada is made of, we will take our time to let you know what to expect.
As part of the Ecuadorian food, the menu of the empanadas has three main varieties.
Empanada de Morocho, it is a fried, white looking empanada, the shell is made out of a white type of corn (hard maize) and the filling normally is with green peas chicken or beef a bit of carrot, a bit of rice.
Empanada de verde, it is a fried green plantain empanada, the shell is made out of mashed green plantain and other ingredients like salt an egg between others. The filling can be varied like filled with cheese, chicken beef or shrimp. (Ecuadorian food from the coast)
Empanada de harina flor. Corn flour Empanadas, this are also fried empanadas and filled with cheese.
Other traditional Ecuadorian food
Dulce de higos!
The “Dulce de Higos” is a typical dessert of Ecuadorian food. It is the cooking of figs for about 3 hours with cane sugar (panela) and spices, will be served with cheese!
It is not one of the best-looking desserts but it is yummy! On the other hand, in Latin America, it is customary to prepare sweets with fig.
“Cuy” one of the delicacies of the Ecuadorian food
Guinea pig, “Cuy” in Spanish, named after the sound they make. This small animal that in many countries is a pet and normally has a name. In Ecuador, we call it lunch! It is prepared at many restaurants in the city of Quito as well as in the countryside. It is considered one of the Ecuadorian food delicacies.
Served at several restaurants in Quito by quarters, halves or an entire guinea pig!. You would expect it to come with the bones, normally will be served with cooked potatoes, peanut sauce, and a salad. If you have tried rabbit, well let me tell you it is very similar, not with much meat but tasty.
If you order fish at a restaurant be ready !. Because you will get a whole fish with the skin, fins, bones, backbone, head, so if you don’t feel comfortable feeling the bones in your mouth, you might think twice before ordering it.
(Ecuadorian food from the coast)
Well, Ecuador is not only the Cuy Republic but also the Banana republic, here we have different varieties of bananas, some used for sweet foods and other for salt dishes. Commercially I understand that only bananas and baby bananas are exported out of Ecuador. Thus the green plantains and the yellow plantains stay in Ecuador! With the green plantains we prepare a variety of dishes like the fried plantain chips (chifles), soups, empanadas, green plantain balls, and many other uses like to thicken soups and “Menestras”, and the yellow or ripe plantain we call “Maduro” it is mainly served in the lowlands and the coast of Ecuador. Grilled sliced or fried, it is served as part of the main dish with meat rice and beans. Delicious! (Ecuadorian food from the coast)
Tree tomato, it is a must in every Ecuadorian kitchen, as the green plantain. We use it in several dishes, but the main use is to do a spicy sauce, every home has their own recipe to make this sauce some make it mild and others very spicy depending on their like. After stirring it is strained and added a touch of herbs as cilantro, salt, red onion, and “Listo” to serve. Also, it is frequently used to do tree tomato juice “Jugo de Tomate de Arbol” the same way just that instead of adding salt and onions you will add sugar and have a delicious juice!
Canelazo, when explaining travelers, the best possible way I can explain is that the “Canelazo” is an Andean drink based in a hot juice, normally made out of the Andean blackberry “Mora” or “Naranjilla” it is mixed with sugar and cinnamon until it boils and then added sugar cane pure liquor called “Puro” the liquor is added to your drink as strong or mild as you like.
This is a traditional drink prepared especially the day of the death (2nd of November) mainly prepared with the Andean Blackberry “Mora” and some flour, in order to thicken this hot beverage. Then other fruits are added at the end. The exotic Babaco, the delicious Pineapple, chopped into pieces. This hot Andean beverage is served with the traditional bread dolls “Muñecas de Pan”.
Normally street vendors in Quito Old town will be selling the traditional “Espumilla”.
Tourists find this especially odd since it looks like an ice cream, but the main difference with an ice cream is that “Espumilla” will not melt!. Well, I have news for you!. It is not an ice cream, it is egg whites mixed with a small amount of fruit juice, sugar and a touch of cinnamon powder.
Chontacuros or Palm Worms, death or Alive!
This nutritious food is mostly eaten in the Amazon of Ecuador by the natives of the different indigenous communities. Chontacuros are picked by hand from the Chonta Palm an then taken to the closest town to be sold. People find it challenging to put one of these alive creatures in their mouths. Therefore another way to eat them is grilled on a stick. Though you can eat them alive too. This worm is considered a delicacy, the inhabitants of the Amazon region have been eating this worms on a daily basis. You can find Chontacuros mostly in two cities, Tena and el Coca grilled or alive. They have become a gastronomical attraction for national and international visitors. So try them as you like!
Chocolate con Queso!
Hot chocolate is a big pride in Ecuador. Since we are one of the countries that produce the finest Cacao in the planet “Fino de Aroma” or fine aromatic. Many homes are now producing their own dark chocolate to keep in big bars, which later will be used to melt a piece of it and make Hot Chocolate.
The traditional way to serve Hot chocolate in Ecuador is to dice some pieces of cheese and put it in your cup of hot chocolate! So then in two or three minutes you will have melted string cheese while you drink your chocolate! Yummy!
The “Cevi-chocho” is very typical to find street vendors with this small snack or as I call it! “Andean Ceviche”. It is mainly a snack of marinated “Chochos” in freshly squeezed lemon juice, tomato juice and added finely chopped red onion, cilantro, a touch of mustard, a touch of olive oil and a touch of ground pepper. Then on top will be added the typical roasted yellow corn and a bit of salad, (diced tomatoes and red onions) and “Listo”!
So after all this explanation. What is Chocho?
Chocho, is very popular legume in Ecuador. Some articles are talking about it as the new superfood for its nutritional content 40 percent protein and 37 percent dietary fiber, with very little carbs. Also in Spain, it is called Altramuz. Thus, after doing a little research. I was able to find out that the English word for “Chocho” is Lupis. Also learned that it originally came from the middle east an probably introduced by the Spaniards to Ecuador around 1580.
It is an exotic singular fruit that in Ecuador is grown in certain areas like the valley of Vilcabamba, Loja. Guayllabamba, in the province of Pichincha about 40 minutes from Quito in a north direction. This is one of the stops to try this fruit for our Otavalo Market Day Trip.
According to Wikipedia The cherimoya (Annona cherimola), also spelled chirimoya and called chirimuya by the Inca people, is an edible fruit-bearing species of the genus Annona from the family Annonaceae. It is generally thought to be native to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, spreading through cultivation to the Andes and Central America. Cherimoya is grown in tropical regions throughout the world. At altitudes between 1500m and 2200m
Mark Twain called the cherimoya “the most delicious fruit known to men”. The creamy texture of the flesh gives the fruit it´s secondary name, custard apple.
Yellow Roasted corn! the yellow corn is roasted once it has been well dried for many days under the sun. Then it is washed and roasted with oil and garlic for about 20 minutes. Once it is roasted. You may add salt and serve it to the table, as an accompaniment to the soups. And well, this is an Ecuadorian food that you basically will find everywhere, especially from Quito, towards the northern provinces of the highlands like Imbabura and Carchi Provinces.
Habas or lima beans!
These are especially delicious when you know how to prepare them ( don’t cook them with too much water), this is a fresh grain that is found at any market cooked or you can also buy the bean to cook at home.
This is a root, original from the Andean region of South America, it is a yellow looking root, known as excellent for joint problems, “Mellocos” look like small potatoes and once cooked it is a bit slimy and the taste is similar to a potato. It can be prepared as an ingredient in salads or soups.
And last, the Fanesca, it is a popular an well known Ecuadorian food since it is the main dish that every home prepares for the holy week. For readers to have an idea, it is a thick soup made out of twelve (12) grains. A traditional Inca dish which comes from the pre-colonial era and had relationships with the harvest time, which took place in April, at that time it was a non-religious tradition at all. After the colony, it was modified and was added milk and codfish to this soup, which Spaniards had introduced to the country. Later on, it was adopted by Catholics to their tradition.
Would you like to spend a day preparing typical Ecuadorian food and learning the tricks and techniques next to an Ecuadorian Family? Check out this great Ecuador Food Tour