My wife and I just got back from eight days in Ecuador. It was a lot of fun exploring the food scene and natural places in the country. We found many tasty foods in our wide travels. From the $2.50 lunch in Mindo that had fried chicken and rice with a bowl of soup, to the wonderful seafood of the coast and Galapagos Islands. I attempted last night, to recreate a rice dish in Ecuador that is similar to a Spanish Paella. The big difference is with this rice dish you don’t cook the vegies and meat with the rice, and you don’t use saffron. My attempt last night included onions, carrots, peas, and garlic then mixed with steamed brown rice for a nice vegetarian dish. In Ecuador they commonly prepare it with squid, octopus, clams and shrimp. It was fairly easy and quick to create and I’ll give it a few more tries before posting the recipe. I suspect just like paella you can add chicken, sausage, and artichoke hearts if you like.
Another nice dish was the fried Tilapia. We only had it once but it was quite good. Tilapia is raised in Ecuador and exported to the U.S. often. The big difference is in Ecuador is usually is sold whole but in the U.S. is usually skinned and fileted.
In Otavalo we were amazed at the Saturday market. I had been to the regular market three years previous to this trip, but had not seen the huge Saturday market. It goes for blocks and blocks in every direction from the main square with people selling from tables or just sitting on the ground. You can buy just about any local food there is from pigs, chickens, fruits, vegetables, rice and beans. If we had cooking facilities in our accommodations I would have gone wild cooking all these amazing fresh foods! The avocados in the area were some of the best I have ever tasted. The hotel we stayed at, ( La Posada del Quinde) had a nice restaurant that served a tuna salad stuffed avocado that I had twice during our two day stay because it was so good. They also served a quinoa soup that I re-created last night. I have eaten quinoa for about 6 years now but never thought to put it in a soup. Once I do further testing on my version I’ll post the recipe.
Trout was also on the menu at several places we ate at and we had it twice. At the Hacienda Cusin in Otavalo we joined our new friends Mel and Peggy from upstate New York and had the rolled trout filet topped with shrimp sauce that was excellent.
Everywhere we stayed were different fruit juices served with breakfast and sometimes lunch. They had mango, strawberry, watermelon, and a few local special juices I still don’t know the name of. All were good and safe to drink. We rarely ate fresh fruit or vegies to avoid traveler’s disease.
We finished off the trip in Quito with a native guide for a 6 hour tour of the historic old town area. In old town we found a trendy street with many little shops and restaurants including Republica Del Cacao. I have tried their chocolate in the U.S. before and didn’t think it was that good. I went in the store with low expectations, but didn’t know they had many more varieties then I had seen in the U.S. Here also were samples of each kind of chocolate, and sample we did. They had a wild pineapple covered chocolate that was the best fruit and chocolate I had ever tasted. We ended up buying four types of dark chocolate bars and the pineapple covered chocolate too. Later in our guided trip I had the guide take us the SuperMaxi a large grocery store chain in Ecuador and bought more chocolate at much lower prices to bring home. With each bar we open in the U.S. will be fond memories of a great trip. Republica del Chocolate also has a shop in the Quito airport that is worth a stop even though it is a bit more expensive than buying in SuperMaxi.
All in all I would highly recommend Ecuador as a great vacation spot. There are many interesting places with very different climate zones to visit. Be sure and read up on it first as you need to know what precautions to take, like staying away from certain foods and neighborhoods. I would recommend tripadvisor.com and their So. America forum to get specific information on an area you want to see. We used it often and it helped immensely. Your public library will probably have several guide books to as Ecuador is rapidly becoming the place to visit.