Ecuadorians love talking about food. If you get a couple of people talking about places to eat in Guayaquil they´ll never stop. And they´re not usually referring to the fanciest restaurants it´s little shacks outside markets that give you a big bowl of encebollado, or a tiny establishment in the poor barrio of Portete where the chops are ‘as soft as a sheet’.
When I asked a guy who’d been in New York for six months what he had missed most he replied, “la comida”. Food is also cheap here unless it is imported (grapes and apples are relatively expensive). A two course set lunch in a simple restaurant can cost between $1.50 and $2 and individual dishes only top $10 in the very finest restaurants. So the only reason you’ll probably want to cook is to prepare something that you can’t get here. For example I find that if I don’t eat the soups there’s not many other sources of vegetables (it’s generally tough being a vegetarian here).
If you buy fruit or vegetables anywhere, even in the supermarket, you should really purify everything before you eat it.
On the coast virtually every dish is served with rice. My mother-in-law even offers it with spaghetti. In the highlands potatoes are more common. You will often find corn or yucca in your soup. I like corn on the cob (choclo) but I find the maize or mote which often appear on the side of my plate virtually tasteless.
People eat a lot of chicken and some beef and pork, occasionally goat and hardly ever lamb. On the coast you can find many dishes made with shrimp or fish ( corvina and dorado are particularly popular). In the highlands you can often find trout.
It is cheap to buy food in shops and to eat out.
A thick soup with potatoes, corn and cheese
Mashed and fried potato patty
Shrimp or fish in coconut milk
Fish or shrimp with onion and coriander in lime juice
Slices of plantain, squashed then fried. Similar to chips. Nice but an incredible amount of effort for a side dish.
Camarones al ajillo
Shrimp fried in garlic sauce
Breaded and fried
It’s possible to just have one, but a traditional meal with friends on the coast involves buying a crate of live crabs, killing them as they crawl around your kitchen, cooking them in a huge pan then spending hours trying to smash bits of crab meat from the shell (accompanied by beer, rice and salad but your hands will probably be too messy to touch anything)
Seco de pollo / carne / chivo
Seco means dry but this is a sauce with onion, Pilsener lager and the naranjilla fruit.
Tripe. I hate it.
Arroz y menestra
Rice and beans. You can eat out on this for 90c in some parts of Guayaquil. The rice and beans alone fill the plate and then you get a chicken, beef fillet or pork chop on top of that.
A casserole, generally made with fish. Delicious.
Guinea pig. A prized dish in the highlands but for me they just have too many small bones to make eating them very enjoyable (the same applies to piranha incidentally). The taste is fine if you can get over the fact that you’re eating a domestic pet.
Pork, cut into cubes and cooked with garlic and condiments in a little water and it´s own fat. Very popular at markets (where the stalls display a pig´s head) and at shacks in small towns on Sundays during the late afternoon.
A traditional dish served during Easter, it is a thick soup mixture composed mainly of grains and dry fish. There isn´t one specific recipe – you basically put in as many grains (such as corn, beans, peas) as you can get your hands on. The dish is so labour intensive that often families share out the tasks – peeling the grains, cooking them separately, then adding pumpkin and cabbage. Milk and a purée of peanuts are added to thicken the soup. The dry fish is added at the end.
Bollo de Pescado
Cooked plantain is mashed and mixed with small pieces of cooked fish, then shaped in balls, maybe with some cheese and served in a soup.
Chifa’s are Chinese restaurants. There is no crispy duck and everything is quite greasy but it’s a good cheap eating option and one of the healthiest. Definitely a good bet for vegetarians.
Parrilladas are barbecues. Many restaurants offer all type of meat usually cooked on a visible open grill and served on a mini grill in the middle of your table If you order a full parrillada you’ll get a load of intestines as well..
There are also many international restaurants in the big cities. Italian food is functional. Salsa is becoming more and more popular. Peruvian cuisine is highly rated and there are some nice restaurants. Argentinian steak houses are not quite as good as the real thing whereas US chain diners are identical. Mexican cuisine is quite popular although Ecuadorian food is generally not spicy – instead they leave a jar of spicy chilli sauce called ají in the middle of the table. Taste a bit before you put it on your food.
Estofado Diced for casserole
Chancho/ Cerdo Pork
Cuy Guinea Pig
Cola Generic for fizzy drinks
Vino (Tinto, Blanco) Wine (Red, White)
Té Tea (Herbal teas are known as Aguas Aromaticas)
Caliente, Frio Hot, Cold
Naranjilla A small citrus fruit used to make juice.
Guineo Banana (to eat)
Plátano Plantain (to cook)
Verde unripe plantain
Maduro ripe plantain
Fresa, Frutilla Strawberry
Tomate del Arbol literally tree tomato, used to make juices, not sweet
Papaya, Mango the same
Zanahoria Blanca a root vegetable similar to parsnip
Yucca another root vegetable
Hongo, Champiñon mushroom
Pimiento pepper (vegetable)
Sal y pimienta Salt and pepper