Ecuadorian Cuisine

Like I shared in my post Another Decade of Adventure | First Up: Ecuador, my husband and I ventured through four continents to make it to his sister’s wedding last weekend. Of course it was not without its difficulty…missed, bumped, and delayed flights galore but after 4 days and a total of 41 hours in airports and planes, we made it to Cuenca, Ecuador and the journey and never ending bad luck ended up being worth it!

Market JPP

We spent 6 days getting used to how modernized the city is getting and trying all our favorite foods at least once. Last time we went to Cuenca, in 2008, you were hard pressed to find any store who could give you change for a $5 bill let alone anything higher. Now the prices have risen, credit cards being taken in more places, and traffic verging on being as bad as Washington DC metropolitan area!

Pan de Yuca JPP

But none of that kept us from getting our favorite foods and then some. There was no diet or guilt this trip! We had to quench all our cravings to hold us over for at least another 2-3 years until we can return again.

Unlike my two previous trips, this trip I did not hesitate to try something new or question what it was I was eating. This time I knew I liked Ecuadorian food and was acquainted enough to not be nervous! In fact, this trip, I feel even more in love with Ecuadorian cuisine. There is just something so simple and humbling about the food and use of ingredients to pack a punch in your mouth.

Melloco JPP

Even better than trying these quintessential Ecuadorian dishes at restaurants, we were treated to several home cooked meals by friends and family. I got to try out different family’s takes on the classic dishes and their variations of aji, a spicy sauce that goes with everything. Even better, I got one of the recipes to take home with me to try in Rwanda. The sauce gets a lot of its flavor from tree tomatoes, which unlike the US, is available in Rwanda. Given my husband’s infinity for hot sauce and especially for aji, I’m excited to have the recipe to perfect myself.

Throughout this post is a smattering of the food we had on our trip, not all encompassing since some of them I was too excited to eat that I didn’t waste time with taking pictures and others taken from my camera phone when that was all I had to document with.

Carne asada with llapingachos, mote (hominy) sucio and mote pio, and papas con cuero (sopa). This is my most favorite dish! I crave it constantly! This was the first time I had ever had the soup, but now I’m craving that too. It’s subtle spicy flavor quite developed and accented by the pork skin, was incredible.

Carne Asada JPP

We also went to a Chifa restaurant, type of Chinese restaurant common throughout Cuenca, at my husband’s request. Since he couldn’t decide what he wanted more, we ended up getting two dishes to share…chaulafan con camarones and saltados con legumbres. Of course both came with shrimp! We are big fans of shrimp and seafood in general and since access to fresh seafood is limited in Rwanda, we take advantage every time we go somewhere where it is! Ecuador was no exception.

I did also get my other favorite, camarones al ajillo, but did not wait to take a picture, I dug right into it!

Our last day in Cuenca ended up being a catch-all type of day, getting one last chance at our favorites and my mother-in-law’s. Normally we would venture outside the city to a roadside shack to get hornado cascarita, however, this time we elected to go downtown to a market to assure we all made our flights home later in the day. I was quite impressed with the newly renovated market, it’s organization, the brightly colored produce, and the stalls upstairs preparing food for passerbys.

I will be working on perfecting some of these dishes myself over the coming months, so be on the lookout to try for yourself at home. Until then, I recommend you at least start by making the camarones al ajillo. You’ll love it!!

Dry Goods Market JPP