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Must-Try Ecuador Favorite Foods

Teacher, gardener, author, and painter, I am always following my heart and expanding my awareness.

Ecuador is known for its many exotic fruits, top quality seafood and fish, and countless varieties of potatoes. It's true that you can find familiar fast food chains in the larger cities, but why would you want to, when such an array of fresh, good food is available?

In our frequent trips to the high Andes and the Ecuadorean coast, we've sampled as many local foods as we could, with lip-smacking delight. The fresh vegetables and fruits and the regional dishes are varied and delicious.

Produce Market, Cotacachi Ecuador

Cotacachi's Produce Market tops any North American super-store display!

Cotacachi's Produce Market tops any North American super-store display!

You'll find a broad spectrum of national and regional dishes, including lemon-marinated shrimp (ceviche), toasted corn, and pastries stuffed with spiced meats.

If you're feeling really courageous, you can sample the roasted or grilled cuy (pronounced "kwee") or guinea pig, which was an important part of the Andean diet before the arrival of the Spanish. Restaurants serving cuy can be hard to find in Ecuador and may require 24 hour notice.

Every town, village and city has markets filled with fresh vegetables and fruits. Street vendors sell their own harvests - fresh strawberries, pineapples, mangoes, citrus fruit and more.


Grilled Cuy - Served Whole!

Cuy - grilled guinea pig - is a delicacy many 'gringos' have some difficulty with!

Cuy - grilled guinea pig - is a delicacy many 'gringos' have some difficulty with!

Empanadas

One typical and favorite Ecuadorean food is the empanada. I guess you could call this the Ecuadorean 'fast food'. Regular empanadas are large and hearty, about the size of a sandwich. One is a snack, two are a meal. You can find them at any bakery, and there are bakeries everywhere.

Savoury empanadas are made with a little ground beef or chicken, potatoes, rice, onions, cheese and spices in any combination, wrapped in dough and then baked or deep-fried and served with aji (chili pepper sauce). The dough is made with corn or wheat, or sometimes with quinoa. At the coast, plantain and yuca are used. Small ones are served as an appetizer. Chef Santiago, at the Quinoa Cafe in El Meson de las Flores in Cotacachi makes delicious ones using quinoa flour.

Baked Empanadas - Yummy Fast Food

Empanadas can be meat, vegetable, or fruit filled.

Empanadas can be meat, vegetable, or fruit filled.

Pork - Fritada or Hornado

While travelling in Ecuador, you may be startled to see whole roasted pig carcasses hanging from hooks alongside the road. These are Fritada stands. If you order, a slab is cut off, chopped into chunks, and fried up. It's served in a greasy newspaper page, reminiscent of fish and chips in England. Y

You can also order fritada at most Ecuadorian restaurants that serve regional food. Hornado is a pig (some quite large) that has been roasted whole. Hornado has a deeper, richer flavor than fritada, and is available at some restaurants and at roadside stands on the outskirts of most major cities.

Where's the Apple?

Whole roasted pigs hang from hooks at roadside stands.

Whole roasted pigs hang from hooks at roadside stands.

Llapingachos - Delicious side dish

Fritada and Hornado are often served with llapingachos, soft yellowish pancakes made of mashed potatoes and cheese. They're delicious! Llapingachos and fritada are most popular in the regions to the north of Quito, but you can get them anywhere.

More Main Dishes

Carne colorado is a northern specialty - strips of beef fried with achiote and other spices, giving it a deep red color. Arroz con Camaron or rice with shrimp, and rice with fish, such as corvina (sea bass) or trout are other common dishes, as rice is grown in the coastal flatlands. Main course meals are usually served with french fries and rice, and a little salad of chilled poached vegetables, usually carrots, peas, and cauliflower.

Llapingachos

Soft, delicious potato pancakes

Soft, delicious potato pancakes

Soups

Soups are without doubt Ecuador's specialty. Most lunches and dinners are accompanied by a savory soup as the first course. Personally, I've found a bowl of Ecuadorean soup is often a meal in itself. Locro soup, made with cheese, avocado and potato is very tasty, and many areas and towns have their own special variety.

Chicken soups are often broths with a few vegetables and a large piece of stewed or poached chicken. Again, a meal in a bowl. Other soups with seafood, quinoa, plantain balls (bolones de verde) and vegetables are served as broths or may be creamed, and all are delicious and nourishing.

A Full Meal

An Ecuadorean meal of soup, plato del dia, with the inevitable popcorn nibbles, and delicious juice!

An Ecuadorean meal of soup, plato del dia, with the inevitable popcorn nibbles, and delicious juice!

Two Delicious Fruit Treats - Don't Miss Out!

The mouthwatering exotic fruits of Ecuador make delicious fresh fruit juices (jugos), including naranjilla (a cross between an orange and a tomato), tree tomato (tomate de arbol), mora (blackberry), guanabana (a luscious thick aromatic sweet white juice), maracuya (passion fruit), pina (pineapple), mango and papaya.

Fruit ice creams of Ecuador are pure fruit flavor. Often still made the old way in wide copper pans on top of ice and straw and turned by hand, it is really a sorbet or fruit ice, since no cream is used, just fruit and sugar. The city of Ibarra is famous for its fruit icecreams.

The Fruit Market in Cotacachi

Fresh, organic and ripe - the fruits here are mouthwatering.

Fresh, organic and ripe - the fruits here are mouthwatering.

More Treats

Quimbolitos are little tamale-like cakes served with tea or coffee, sometimes for breakfast. Not desserts and not a meal, they are a type of light cake with a few raisins in it, wrapped up in an achira leaf, and steamed. The achira leaf gives it a kind of mild citrus flavor, and they are more sweet than savory.

For another small treat, along the roadside or in bakeries you'll often see the sign for "bizcochos" or biscuits, which are not the traditional biscuit most of us would know. They are a light, savory, crunchy lady-finger shaped pastry, delicious with coffee or tea, or for breakfast.

The Outdoor Sunday Market, Cotacachi

Giant squash and shucked corn - two staples of the local diet - found at the Outdoor Market.

Giant squash and shucked corn - two staples of the local diet - found at the Outdoor Market.

Fresh from the field - organic leeks.

Fresh from the field - organic leeks.

Enjoy Your Food Local and Fresh

You don't find North American brand variety here; there are few imported or packaged foods (except in the large SuperMaxi stores, now opening in larger centers), no fancy vinegars, few fine cheeses, no local wines.

On the other hand, Ecuadorean foods are about as local as you can get. Nearly everything is fresh, and nothing comes from more than 100 or so miles away; so you can get potatoes and onions and other cool climate foods from the highlands, along with the fresh shrimp and fish, cilantro, melons, bananas and yuca from the coast.

Every village, like Cotacachi, has its food market, filled with fresh vegetables, fruits, eggs, soft cheese and local snack foods of shucked beans and corn.

No matter where you go, be sure to try the local restaurant specialities. Delicious typical meals can be found and enjoyed in every region of Ecuador.


Local, Fresh - What Could Be Better?

Huge cabbages at the Cotacachi Market

Huge cabbages at the Cotacachi Market

Bananas and Plantain from the Coastal region

Bananas and Plantain from the Coastal region

Guanabana - one of my favorite juiced fruits, also known as the soursop

Guanabana - one of my favorite juiced fruits, also known as the soursop

Tomate de Arbol - also known as tamarillo

Tomate de Arbol - also known as tamarillo

Adding Hope to Ecuador's Disadvantaged

  • Ecuador Project Hope — Improve Life Experiences
    ECUADOR PROJECT HOPE - A charity that has helped build and renovate schools for pre-school children in remote villages. Presently, it runs, with volunteers, a food kitchen and health care for the elderly poor in Cotacachi, Ecuador.

Cotacachi Soup Kitchen Volunteers

ecuador-food

© 2009 Nicolette Goff

Comments

William on March 06, 2017:

Ceviche, Empanadas and Hornado (pork with the onion topping) are my favourites!!!

Don Barber from Atuntaqui, Ecuador on October 20, 2016:

Nice article. We just visited Atuntaqui and Cotacachi for a month during the summer. The produce markets are wonderful. We are planning on moving there next year. I love the pictures too. It looks exactly the same today.

Pyro on September 29, 2016:

OMG that stuff looks great! I'd love to try an empanada... Not sure about the Cuy though... Really helped me with my project!

Beth Bennett from Vancouver, British Columbia on December 14, 2014:

Ohhh we just got back from Ecuador and did in fact try the cuy. Not exactly our favourite food and the presentation left much to be desired. But it's really no different than eating another type of meat.

Nicolette Goff (author) from British Columbia on July 25, 2012:

Not sure, Penny. As i said to Jess and Kameri, different cultures eat (and prepare food) differently than us. Think of it as an adventure in cuisine! Give it a try when you get to Ecuador.

Penny1963 on July 11, 2012:

But I do have a question. Why do they leave the heads on? It would seem like it would be harder to eat.

Penny1963 on July 11, 2012:

I hope to be moving to Ecuador in the near future. I'm anxiously awaiting to have all those delicious looking fruits!

Nicolette Goff (author) from British Columbia on June 06, 2012:

Jess, Kameri:

Different cultures eat differently than us. Let's not judge them.

Jess polarderacano on May 31, 2012:

Horrble search animal welfare we can make this stop!!!'

Bob on December 08, 2011:

how much did it all cost?

valeria on April 05, 2011:

yummy i`m from Ecuador and i love their foos

bella on February 22, 2011:

that nastey and i thought it was just chinese

69 on December 12, 2010:

hi your yummy

Jake on November 27, 2010:

great article relly helped me on a project

Nicolette Goff (author) from British Columbia on October 19, 2010:

Well, the pig isn't my favorite, but it really was the cuy or guinea pigs that got me!

alabama boy on October 11, 2010:

i know!!! it looks good and sad at the same time!!!!!!!

me on October 11, 2010:

wow everything looks good excepy those pigs...

marisa on September 05, 2010:

ecuador is the best place in the world

Nicolette Goff (author) from British Columbia on May 24, 2010:

James - hope you do get to Ecuador - it's a great country!

Twenty One Days on April 09, 2010:

i am soooo planning a trip there! wow. food is fabulous!

Great Hub!

james.

lola on December 22, 2009:

yooooooooooo my neighbors are from ecuador and they ate food like that.I remember that i saw big pork there.

Donna Suttle from Ecuador, New Mexico, South Carolina on September 19, 2009:

we are going to try a healer that we heard about in cotacachi for my husband's back. The MDs haven't been much help, so why not?

Nicolette Goff (author) from British Columbia on September 18, 2009:

dksuttle, thanks for reading. Yes, Cotacachi is wonderful - We have a condo there, and may just see you there this winter!

Donna Suttle from Ecuador, New Mexico, South Carolina on September 18, 2009:

Thank you for this hub. I am headed back to Ecuador for six months. You made my mouth water. Isn't Cotachi a wonderful city. We may settle there.

gamezire on April 24, 2009:

Oh, THANK YOU for this.

Nicolette Goff (author) from British Columbia on April 23, 2009:

I'm not so sure about that cuy! I have not yet had the nerve to sample it. Thanks for reading!

Gin Delloway on April 23, 2009:

mmmmm... everything looks so delicious.. and I think that the taste is wonderfool as well!

Nicolette Goff (author) from British Columbia on April 21, 2009:

They are - one of my favorites! Thanks for reading!

jonathan on April 21, 2009:

the lapingachos look delicios

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