The Food Saga: The Chicken Era

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Welcome to my “Central and South America Food Saga“!

A lot of you were curious about the food we ate when we were traveling (especially a certain gentleman from Tulsa!), so I decided to make a mini-series. Today, we will see… the chicken era, aka food in Panama, Costa Rica, and to a lesser extend, Peru. This is by no mean an extensive gastronomic guide, but rather an overview of what two backpackers ate on the road, and what locals eat everyday.

In, Central America, as well as in Peru, you just need to know three words to order food: arroz (rice), frijoles (beans) and pollo (chicken). Makes life easy, doesn’t it! However, the food may be quite basic, and at one point, you’ll be desperate for something other than chicken. I mean, how much chicken can one eat???

In Central America, breakfast is somewhat a bit American-style: eggs, rice, beans are very common. A popular Costa Rican dish is gallo pinto: rice and beans fried together with spices such as cilantro, onion and peppers. Incidentally, Nicaragua also claims gallo pinto as its national dish – a big disagreement between the two countries. In Panama, you can have your eggs revueltos (scrambled), fritos (fried), duros (hard-boiled), pasado por agua (soft-boiled) etc. In Peru, desayuno americano (American breakfast) is also quite common, even if locals will also eat tamales (boiled corn with meat or cheese and wrapped in a banana leaf).

At lunch or at diner, the same ingredients are used: the usual rice and beans mix, plus some kind of meat (yes, most of the time, it is chicken). A common side dish in Central American is patacones (fried plantain), in Peru, it’s  choclo (corn).

A interesting fact in Peru is the numerous chifas. Chifas (from the Chinese “chifan” 吃饭, to eat) are Peruvian-Chinese restaurants, typically serving fried rice, wantan soups and vegetable stir-fries. The food is nor very Chinese nor very Peruvian, but an interesting combination of the two, which locals of all socio-economic levels enjoy.

Markets are always very interesting to visit, but you need to have a strong stomach. The meat section can be quite a display, with cow heads and numerous dead chicken (and the smell, oh, the smell…). On the other side, spices are colorful and the veggie section is interesting to browse, since they are a lot of things we don’t have. All markets also have a snack area and it’s always packed at lunch with locals… great place to grab a bite, but make sure it’s clean enough!

Eating Breakfast In San Jose, Costa Rica

Eating Breakfast In San Jose, Costa Rica

Meat At The Market, Arequipa, Peru

Meat At The Market, Arequipa, Peru

Gallo Pinto Style Breakfast In Costa Rica

Gallo Pinto Style Breakfast In Costa Rica

Choclo Con Queso (Corn and Cheese) In Arequipa, Peru

Choclo Con Queso (Corn and Cheese) In Arequipa, Peru

Grabbing A Snack At The Market, Costa Rica

Grabbing A Snack At The Market, Costa Rica

Veggies At The Market, Peru

Veggies At The Market, Peru

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

15 Comments

  1. Lovely post… I like peruvian food. Well, beyond chicken I can’t eat anytg like beef / pork.

    BTW.. veggies foto almost looked like an Indian market. Ever tried Indian food?

  2. I hate Haitian food the other day and I had rice with beans as well. I’m not a fan of beans but I found the food delicious. There’s always a great Peruvian restaurant in Montreal. Amazing food.

  3. Hi again,

    Chicken after a while is…tiresome!

    Gallo pinto is not for me…(nor is the American or English breakfast). I prefer Continental breakfast.

    Now, the choclo con queso looks yummy!

    Girl, did you lose weight? You look slimmer in this foto…

  4. I don’t eat meat (never had a stake or a hamburger in my whole life) and after looking at the second picture I don’t think I ever will, LOL 😀

  5. I am sure you guys had a gastronomic adventure as well. Your second picture reminds me of my market eating experience in Ecuador. I was in the Mercado Central in Quito, and I sat down for a bowl of guatita (tripe stew, very delicious), and as I was enjoying my bowl of guatita, I saw carcasses of cattle and pig being carried around by muscular men, some of them still dripping blood. It was not a sight a Westerner usually is used to, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

  6. Ah, at last food, wonderful food! I can do arroz, frijoles, and pollo in almost any combination. Throw in some nice veggies and I’m happy. But then I am omnivorous, I can eat almost anything that any civilized person can eat except for maybe insects and live octopus. I would probably pass on the cow heads too.

  7. Ah food, now you’re talking my language. I am always interested in what people eat around the world. I hear a lot of complaints about Cuban food, but it is very plain due to rationing. I thought it was fine.

  8. my favorite breakfast in costa rica was was very simple: a thin slice of white cheese folded into an omelette. it was served with bread and jam, plus fresh fruit (pineapple, banana, papaya and mango). and, of course, the rice and beans. and coffee. yum yum yum yum.

  9. @CM-Chap – I love Indian food, suits me well because I don’t eat a lot of meat usually.

    @Bluefish – I have never tried it before… I guess the Haitian community is bigger in Montreal, not sure we even have a restaurant here. But I get your point, it is tastier than it looks!

    @kyh – Just rice, beans and spice. It is very tasty!

    @Shantanu – Yes, they like it! I don’t mind, corn is quite good.

    @Max Coutinho – I used to be a continental breakfast girl til I moved to Canada. Now, when I work, I don’t even have breakfast… but big American-style breakfast is great when you plan to skip lunch! And yeah, we probably lost some weight 😉

    @Agnes – Sorry, I know it’s a bit graphic… yet, you would see a lot of those just walking in the streets in any small town.

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – Markets are always a bit…er… graphic. But you get used to it eventually. That said, I can’t eat tripes or anything like that!

    @Tulsa Gentleman – I don’t do cow heads either! 😆 Not sure how you can even cook that… you seem to be quite curious about food, and you like to try new stuffs. It’s cool!

    @Gail at Large – Food can be seen as plain in Central America too, not because of rationing, but because of the lack of spices.

    @Seraphine – I haven’t mentioned it, but yeah, I loved the juices too. Cheese was fine, but not tasty enough for a French 😉

    @Sidney – Meat eater! 😆

  10. Nice pic from the Mercado in San Jose. You should try my mom´s pinto, is the best in the world. I love how you use Manu´s lyrics in you page.

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