Monday, July 23, 2007

Typical Nicaraguan food

Nicaraguan food is a great example of dishes made with locally grown (and free range) ingredients. The staples are gallo pinto (rice and beans made with leftovers from the previous dinner), tropical fruits, meats, and seafood in the coastal towns. Their speciality is nacatamales, which is corn dough with vegetables and pork, chicken, or beef wrapped in banana leaves. They are popular on the weekends. Rondon, meaning "to cook" is a stew of yucca, chayote and other vegetables with meat added. Eskimo brand ice cream, with its selection of tropical flavors is available from a push cart on every street corner, but it is of poor quality and melts so fast you are left with ice cream soup.

In Leon, I had one of the most interesting meals of my trip. I ordered Indio Viejo off a menu that boasted that the dish was a Nicaraguan specialty. It was a stew made of onions, garlic, sweet red and green peppers, tomatoes and chicken all suspended in a corn tortilla broth mixture. After some Internet research, I found that the corn tortilla broth is made by putting some tortillas into water and then grinding them until they form dough. The meat is shredded and then fried with the aforementioned vegetables, the dough, and orange juice. Finally, you add broth. It tasted heavenly. I am going to try and recreate this dish at home.

We made a point to visit the Cental Market in Leon because we were there on a Saturday. Here is a picture I took there. There were many women selling these corn, milk, and cheese breads at the ends of the stalls. They had an interesting texture and were very dense.

In Granada our meals were varied. In this city they cater to the money bearing gringoes and the restaurants are accomodating as such. Not ideal when you want to try local foods. However, we did stumble upon a place, Dona Conchi's, that dished up some large postions of typical foods. The dish I had was sea bass with a garlic and parsley sauce paired with two jumbo shrimps and sides of rice and french fries. The sangria was excellent and the garden dining was que romantico! The following evening we ate a late dinner at the American-style BBQ joint because we experienced, yet another, city-wide power outage. This non-memorable restaurant had a generator which meant we did not have to go to bed hungry. And after a long day of sightseeing: pottery making, arts and crafts market visiting, Spanish fort turned prison viewing, volcano hiking, bat cave exploring, and lava watching, we were HUNGRY!
On Isla de Ometepe, we ate all our meals at the hotel where we were staying. There were not many places to dine as we were miles from the small town center where the ferry dropped us off. The food wasn't the best, but it was edible. I finally caved in and ordered pasta for dinner the evening after our seriously challenging hike up, and down, Volcano Maderas. On the hike we saw banana trees, cocoa beans, and unripe coffee beans. I have never sweat so much in my life! This picture is taken at the crest of the volcano. We then climbed down into the crater for lunch where soggy sandwiches never tasted so good. Then out of the crater and back down the volcano through the rainforest, being careful not to slip in the extremely muddy stream beds, to return home absolutely covered in mud.
Here is a little more information on traditional Nicaraguan food. And like everywhere else in Central America, rice, beans, eggs, and fresh fruits are the staples in everyday diets.

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