Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Honduran food primer

We started our culinary quest in Honduras. We arrived far too late in Antigua, Guatemala to sample any Guatemalan foods. It was a disappointment, but we were relieved to arrive on the same day we were originally scheduled to arrive, albeit eight hours later.

Our food consumption philosophy while traveling was to try any and all local foods whenever possible, short of going, uninvited, into a Central American home. We avoided, to the best of our ability, all the restaurants that catered to "gringos." This was sometimes difficult to do as most of the families eat their main meals at home and many times there were not many restaurants in the areas we visited that served local, traditional foods.

In Honduras, there were two food items that stood out as being particularly indigenous to Honduras. One was pan de coco or coconut bread which, to my disappointment, is really only a bun made with coconut milk. I think I was envisioning a coconut crumb cake or a banana bread-type item. It is a little sweeter and slightly more dense than a normal, white bun. We tasted pan de coco at a place called Thompson's Bakery along with their yummy sticky cinnamon rolls. Working in a hot bakery in Honduras has to be one tough job thanks to the extreme heat and humidity!

Everywhere we stopped on the buses for a potty break, we heard ladies yelling, "baleadas, baleadas," which are snack that they were selling through the bus windows. Baleadas are white flour tortillas folded in half and filled with refried beans, crumbly cheese, and crema (think runny sour cream.) Quite a heavy snack, if you ask me.

Breakfast in Honduras usually consisted of scrambled or fried eggs, refried black beans, rice, a piece of rubbery, tasteless cheese, a piece of ham that resembled Spam, and homemade corn tortillas. I loved it all but the ham and cheese. That was a breakfast made to stick to your ribs which was a good thing as we often did not get to eat again until dinner.

In Copan we ate dinner at a restaurant called Momo's. It was a bbq place for all practical purposes with pleasant outdoor seating. Though there was a one-eyed dog that came to visit us during our meal that made me loose my appetite for a few minutes. We all order various meat kebabs that were skewered with veggies and marinaded with a garlic, lemon, and oil. The meat was very tender and fresh. I ate up every last bite. (After I forgot about the dog.)
Once we got to Utila of The Bay Islands, we went in search of a place called Cross Creek which is where all the divers and locals supposedly hang out. We had some trouble finding it as we continued to walk further and further on a wooden path that seemed to led to nowhere. Some other guests came up behind us and told us that, "when you think you are lost, you are halfway there" and it was true! After a near 1/4 of a mile we stumbled upon a shack which houses the kitchen and a covered deck which has the tables. You order at the shack and have a choice between fish or a meat and one of three sauces. Very simple. I ordered the grilled fresh tuna fillet with the soy ginger sauce and it was amazing. The fish tasted like it had just come out of the ocean. But look all that food! I ate and ate and it looked like I didn't make a dent. The restaurant owner's wife was very concerned that I did not like my meal. I reassured her I did, very much!

The following evening we joined our other travel mates for a barbecue at the hotel where we were staying. Some of our new friends had gone deep sea fishing that day and we grilled up their "daily catch" of barracuda and tuna. People from around the world gathered in small kitchen with minimum utensils and prepared a feast of grilled potatoes with red onion and garlic, steamed carrots, zucchinis, and green peppers, all of which had to be cooked on the grill with the fish. It took a while to grill everything as the coals were damp, but the end result was really quite good. Pictured here are a few of my fellow cooks who were from Australia and Canada.
On our last night in Utila we tried to go to a restaurant called Tropical Sunset, but it was closed, without apparent reason, on Thursdays. Lots of places in Utila kept somewhat odd hours/days. We did run into the chef who was helpful in recommending another place to eat called La Pirrata. We splurged and ordered lobster tails because they were caught of the neighboring island of Roatan and they were only $15USD. They were pretty good, but a bit burnt. I must admit my palate isn't terribly discriminating when I am starving.

The next Central American installment will be about Nicaragua. Get excited!

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