Ecuador – part 2

We’ve been eating so much in Ecuador (well, at this point, we’ve also been here longer than any other country on our itinerary), I decided to split the comida de ecuador into two pages for easier digesting and less scrolling. Enjoy!
6 July

Suhail enjoys his first taste of Pony

We had heard about Pony Malt beverage from Salchipapa and it sounded good, though I wasn’t so sure. He described it as malty and sweet, but when I asked him if it was carbonated, he responded with the energy and enthusiasm typical of an 11 year old who had just slammed a bottle of Pony. Neither Suhail nor I are big soda fans, but we decided to give Pony a try. It was a bit more syrupy and a bit less malty than I’d expected, but to be fair, I think I was imagining a vanilla malt in a bottle, so I am not sure how I would not have been disappointed! It wasn’t horrible and Suhail actually liked it, but a couple of sips was enough for me. He thought it tasted like cream soda, which I like, so I, of course, disagreed, but its flavor is just mildly reminiscent of cream soda. You may be able to find Pony at your local Hispanic grocery and you can give it a try for yourself. We enjoyed this one on the beach at the fishing market in Puerto Lopez.
We’d decided to leave the dry, mountainous air of Quito for La Costa and chose Puerto Lopez because it was easy to get to and had a laid-back vibe. Although we didn’t get beach weather any of the days but one, we enjoyed hanging out in the bars and restaurants on the beach and, of course, eating all the fresh seafood! Here are just a few of the dishes we enjoyed on our trip:

Our first ceviche in Puerto Lopez - this one was shrimp and eaten in one of the cafes that line the beach. Not great, but pretty good.

Second ceviche - this time Suhail had fish (which, interestingly, was served with peanut sauce) and I had calamari at Gaston, around the corner from our hostal.

Another shot from Gaston. We knew this place had to be good because it was packed every morning as the seafood came in from the market. Delish!

As you can see from the photos, ceviche is always served with chifles (fried plantain chips). I love them and have also purchased them in packets like this one.

We loved all the seafood, but when we needed a break, we checked out the acclaimed Bellitalia. It was a nice change to have Italian food and a glass of wine. The service was great and the food was really tasty and fresh…and the desert was excellent!

Fresh homemade pasta!!!

Tiramisu - this version had a top layer of ice cream. Yum!

This was not what I envisioned when I ordered steamed fish, but it was a rich curry served with rice, and a nice change from the fish dishes we'd been eating.

We were intrigued by the "chicharron" option listed in many resturant's fish category because we'd only heard of chicharrones made with pork. It turned out to be a fish fry!

There is fish in everything on the coast! This was a fish corndog of sorts…

Fish fritter

Interior of fish fritter (with the hotel's pooch in the background)

Mora (blackberry) smoothie. Although there is a huge variety of tropical fruit here, the mora is probably the most widely eaten.

We ended our stint in Puerto Lopez with a visit to a Colombian restaurant. We’d hoped to visit Colombia on this trip, but it looks like this is the closest we’ll get!

Arepa (corn cake) with beans and cheese

Empanada with chicken and cheese

Patacone pisao with cheese and arepa

July 14

Frying up the corn fritters

While walking around, visiting the Saquisilli Market, you work up quite an appetite. We decided to snack on some of these delicious corn and cheese fritters.

Greasy goodness!

There were numerous stands in separate areas within each of the fresh markets. We never sat down to eat, but snacked on the fritters, along with chicharrones and mote.

The best type of vendor = chicharron and fritado!!!

I was also excited to find some red bananas, similar to the ones we’d enjoyed in India and to buy the interesting looking pepino, which we tried for the first time. They turned out to taste sort of similar to kiwis, with a sweet, but mild flavor and soft and fleshy inside (you do not eat the thin skin).


Ice cream vendor on our bus

The selling even continued onto our bus as we waited to depart for Quito. These ice cream ladies had a sort of stand set up on the street and one would scoop up cones and the others would run onto the bus and try to peddle them. It was a strange system, but seemed to work well. I think Suhail and I may have been the only passengers who did not buy any!

The woman leaning over and doing most of the scooping had a baby strapped to her back!

July 15

Morocho in process

While in Saquisilli we purchased some morocho. I had wanted to try this special drink and Frank, the morocho master, offered to make it for us if we brought home the morocho. I would have to say, one of the most typical Ecuadorian comfort meals is morocho with empanadas, eaten any time of day.
Morocho starts as a coarse ground white corn, which you soak overnight before turning into a delicious, milky hot beverage. I did not get to monitor the concoting, but I can tell you the morocho is cooked slowly with milk and water and flavored with cinnamon and panela (a solid type of sugar made by boiling and evaporating sugarcane). Not very photogenic, but very delicious and most comforting on a chilly evening!

Morocho is sort of a drinkable hot cereal...

17 July

Hard to believe, but Mariana actually bought the pig's head, just like she'd been promising/threatening to do!

Pretty early on in our Spanish classes, Mariana mentioned that she had always wanted to buy the head of a pig (from a restaurant, already cooked) for the family. I replied that Suhail would be all over that idea….well, that was all the encouragement she needed. For weeks, she daydreamed – out loug – about ‘la cabeza de chancho’ and we discussed it regularly in our classes.
She did finally purchase the head and the entire family, plus an older lady known only as ‘Abuelita’ (Spanish for granny, even though she is not a granny to any of us), feasted on it. It was truly a feast, and even the dog got to enjoy it! Check out Suhail’s video of the action here:

20 July
We hit the road once again, this time headed south, ultimately to Cuenca, Ecuador’s third largest city. Along the way, we stopped in a few smaller towns and tried some different regional dishes.
In Alausi, you can ride the famous Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) train. We rode the train and also ate some delicious empanadas – these were filled with cheese and fried. Check out what Suhail thought here:

31 July

Cuy (guinea pig) is the national dish of Ecuador, but I had some reservations about trying it. Mainly due to the fact that I had raised about a dozen guinea pigs as a child (after a neighbor kid left her newly adopted pregnant guinea pig at our house while she went to ask her mom if she could bring it home…oddly, she never returned…). In the end, I realized I didn’t really have too much sentiment for these creatures anyway, so I gave it a shot. It was ok, but nothing I think I will eat again. I do think it could be marketed as a sustainable food source (they require a lot less resources and effort to raise than, say, cattle), but it would take some getting used to! As usual, we captured the whole thing on video…