Food in Central America

And so we come to food in Central America… what? One post for the whole continent?! What’s that all about? Well, some countries we were in for just a few days, and there were also some commonalities across the countries – so, one post it is going to be – leave any complaints in the comments area…

So, first we come to breakfast. Breakfast in Central America didn’t differ too much from many of the other countries on the trip – with eggs being an important item all round. However, the addition of pancakes as an option was a welcome appearance! 🙂

Pancakes and fruit. Panama City, Panama.
Pancakes and fruit. Leon, Nicaragua.
Pancakes and fruit. Copan Ruinas, Honduras.

However, the real crowd-pleaser (well, for us anyway) was Gallo Pinto. This can actually be eaten at breakfast, lunch, or dinner – and is a famous Central American speciality. Both Costa Rica and Nicaragua claim to have invented the dish – but we are going to go out on a limb and claim that the Costa Rica version was the best version…. Sorry Nicaragua… (disclaimer: it could have just been the particular places where we ate it…)

The name means ‘spotted rooster’ in English, and it’s named because it looks kind of ‘speckled’. It’s made of rice and beans, and then whatever secret ingredients the chef puts in. We couldn’t get enough of it! 🙂

Gallo Pinto served with egg and tomatoes. Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica.
Gallo Pinto served with egg and plantains. San Miguel, El Salvador.

Breakfasts without Gallo Pinto were never quite as good, but usually at least there were plantains with the eggs – and I have to say that most breakfasts in Central America were of a pretty high standard! 🙂

Eggs, Plantain, Toast, and Salsas. Copan Ruinas, Honduras.

And finally, to the many breakfasts that we had when breakfast wasn’t included with our accommodation… yes, our usual trusty choice of bran flakes was nowhere to be seen in Central America – I guess bran is not a thing there! So, we had to settle with good old-fashioned cornflakes – what can you do…

Corn Flakes – by Michel.

Lunch and Dinner
OK, so now we move on to lunch and dinner – and just like in South America a big lunch is the order of the day! The lunches in Central America formed part of a ‘continuum’ of lunches across the whole region – yes, well that makes sense to me anyway…:-) So what I mean is that the concept of ‘chicken/fish with beans, rice, plantain, salad – accompanied by some kind of tortillas/arepas, which appeared in Colombia, continued as we progressed through Central America. BUT, upon reaching Nicaragua – and from that point on, a new ‘type’ of lunch appeared. To our uneducated food minds, this was called ‘The start of Mexican type foods appearing’ – there was a variety of options which seemed to be similar to tacos and burritos – generally served with a variety of tasty, spicy sauces. There were so many of these types of foods, available both for lunch, and for snacks that they merit their own post – which of course will follow after this one…. Therefore no tacos, burritos, gringas, pupusas etc etc will be mentioned here…

There is not much else to say, except that we generally had very excellent lunches everywhere that we went. In Costa Rica particularly, there are lots of great places to eat, which are called ‘sodas’. A ‘soda’ is a small family-run restaurant that serves Costa Rican cuisine. Although there was not a great deal of variety, and also not that much spice, we are big fans of rice and beans – so were happy most of the time 🙂

Interestingly, in Costa Rica, the ‘protein’, rice, beans etc combo is known as a ‘casado’ – so you can order ‘chicken casado’, or ‘beef casado’ for example. ‘Casado’ actually means ‘married’ – there is debate as to whether this is because it’s for ‘married men’, because it’s what they would eat at home, or whether it’s because the rice and beans go together so well that they are married. Anyway, we ate a lot of ‘casados’… 🙂

So, here is the gallery of lunches…. you might notice that the first pic has no rice or no beans…we included it because it was so delicious! 🙂

Plate of chips and plate of prawns. What’s not to like! :-). Panama City, Panama.
Comida de Pollo. The chicken was curry flavoured! Panama City, Panama.
With this lunch, you get your beans in a little pot. Boquete, Panama.
Casado con pescado (fish). Quepos, Costa Rica.
Another casado con pescado. Monteverde, Costa Rica.
‘Chicken fajitas’ apparently. Leon, Nicaragua.
Chicken Ranchero. Note the absence of beans now that we have passed Nicaragua… Ahuachapan, El Salvador.
Fairly bland chicken lunch. Where are the beans! Santa Ana, El Salvador.
Lunch provided by tour company. Lamanai, Belize.
In Belize, they seemed to prefer the rice mixed with minimal beans. Corozal, Belize.

So, there you have it. So far so good for Central American food 🙂 Next up is the following food group in the ‘continuum’…

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