Comidas Tradicionales de Costa Rica
This past weekend we spent some time on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, in a small town called Uvita. When we weren't busy ziplining through the jungle or diving into waterfall pools, we enjoyed lots of local dishes in the town's sodas, or diners.
The most common dish in Costa Rica is the casado, or "marriage." The marriage is of rice and beans, which are always served together. Along with this base comes a piece of meat (or fish on the coast), some fried plantain, a salad, and a picadillo, which is a vegetable side cut into small pieces. It's a full plate of food, and one in which the meat is only a small portion of the well-balanced plate. Kirk's casado in the photo above has, clockwise from the top, sweet fried plantain, fried fish, mixed salad (which is somewhat less common than the typical cabbage slaw), red beans, white rice, and pieces of ayote, a summer squash similar to zucchini.
Costa Rican cuisine is typically not spicy, although there are plenty of sauces to add to the rice and beans. Hot sauce similar to Tabasco is common, as is a salsa de vegetales. The recipe varies depending on who makes it, but it's usually a thin, green-brown sauce made with Costa Rica's flavor trifecta of celery, garlic, and pepper. There's also some type of curry spices going on in there too — maybe some cumin or turmeric? Plus a little vinegar, and there you go. It's really delicious, and the celery/garlic combination is pretty unique.
Costa Rican food is not Mexican food, but they do have gallos, which are like tacos. These are served on flour or corn tortillas, but the only filling is shredded meat cooked in a light vegetable sauce. Mine were chicken and served with a salad and a pickled jalapeño, which was not at all spicy. Emboldened, I put a big scoop of salsa on each gallo and took a bite.
This is where we learn the origin of the saying "Ask questions before your chile is roasted."
So yeah, some Costa Rican food is spicy after all.
Finally, the big hit with the kids were the batidos, or smoothies. On the coast these were called aguas naturales, which you could order made with either milk or water. In the photo Tiegan is having a pineapple with milk. Jonas' favorite is mango (with water or milk, though I think he's decided that he likes the creamy version the best). I had a guanábana with milk, which was delicious. The dictionary translates this fruit as a "soursop," which I'm pretty sure is a fake thing no one has ever heard of. It's a big, tropical fruit that is green and spiny on the outside, with pale flesh seeds in the middle. It's not very sour, although it does have a slight citrusy tang. According to Heyni, my Spanish teacher, it's one of the first fruits that they feed to babies around here because it is universally adored and very soft and juicy.
We can see why!