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Ecuador » Travel Resources »
Ecuador Eating & Drinking

Most common dishes in Ecuador, Regional dishes, Desayunos, almuerzos, meriendas, Snack stalls , Drinks

The Ecuadorian cuisine, known as "comida criolla" or "comida nacional", is a relatively young gastronomy. Even if it isn't internationally famous, it's very self-contained and includes some great dishes. Besides the regionally different staple foods (Highland, Coast, Amazon lowlands), whose menus are composed after old, countrified recipes, also European (in particular Spanish) and northern American influences play an important role in the Ecuadorian kitchen. The Spanish conquerors, for example, widely replaced the Indian aliments guinea pig and lama by other meats as pork and beef. Today, the expensive guinea pig (cuy), is consumed in rural regions in the highland, while the almost extinct lama today only serves the wool production. The lama population recently increased thanks to the import from Chile and Peru. Within living memory, the coast inhabitants' lives have been conditioned by the richness of fish. A delicate steak is still a rarity today in most places on the Ecuadorian coast (except the big cities as Guayaquil and Portoviejo).

In general, the cultivation of regional, vegetal main products is divided as follows: Cultivation of rice mainly at the coast, potatoes and corn in the highland and yuca (manioc) in the "Oriente" (Amazon lowlands). Anyway, it is not unusual to eat a lot of rice in the Andean highlands, besides the fries or "mote" (cooked and peeled corn). Fried or cooked manioc (yuca) is also a frequent product at the coast and potatoes and corn in the "Oriente". Further typical ingredients for main dishes are the differently prepared plantains (guineo, verde, maduro, maqueño, patacones), camote (sweet potatoes), papa china (a small sort of potatoes), lentejas (lenses), garbanzo (chick peas) and habas (broad beans).
Ecuador is the "soup country" per excellence. Probably nowhere else in the world, people eat so much soup (sopa) as in the cool Ecuadorian highland. The list is long and includes the popular "caldo de gallina" (chicken stock), "sopa or chupé de pescado" (fish soup), "sopa de verduras" (vegetable soup), "yaguarlocro" (blood sausage stew), tasty "locro de queso" (potato- cottage cheese- soup with avocado fruit) and the "caldo de patas" (in its traditional form: potato soup with knuckle of pork, cooked manioc, cooked corn, milk, onions, garlic and eventually peanuts or "culantro" (coriander)). A soup rich in protein is the Sopa Marinera (seafood soup), which is particularly famous in the coast region.
The traditional Fanesca , that is served mainly during the Easter week, is a cereal soup with up to 12 different legumes as grains of maize, fresh peas and a big portion of dried fish (stockfish). An other very popular soup is called Sancocho . It is made of beef or pork, cooked manioc, plantains and peas. It originally comes from the coast, but today it is also very famous in the highland of Ecuador.

The cebiche , that originates from the deep Pacific Ocean is the Ecuadorian national dish per excellence. The raw seafood cocktail with shrimps, mussels or crawfish, marinated in vinegar, oil, lime or orange juice and served with tomato slices, onion and herbs, is an important component of the Ecuadorian cuisine. This not only in the coast region, but also in the capital at 2800m of altitude. Even if the Peruvian say that the traditional chebiche is their invention, the Ecuadorian version with less calories isn't less patriotic at all. Chebicherías (typical chebiche restaurants) can be found in every Ecuadorian small and big town.

Ají is a hot sauce (salsa picante), made of red chili, that stands on almost every table in the restaurants and is regionally prepared in different ways. There are some very hot salsas and others, quite mild ones.

Most common dishes in Ecuador (típica comida criolla)
Churrasco is usually a big portion of rice, under a more or less big piece of meat with two fried eggs on it, some fries, fried onion rings and a little bit of vegetable salad.

Apanado is a pork cutlet with fries, rice and vegetable salad.

Lomo a la Plancha is a flat piece of tenderloin with fries or potato purée and some vegetables.
Seco de Chivo , some kind of a spicy gulash of goat meat with dry rice.

Seco de Pollo (also seco de gallina), cooked chicken with rice and an avocado fruit.

Menestra (con carne y patacones), grilled meat with lenses, rice and small, mashed plantain fritters.

Locro is one of the most authentic national dishes in Ecuador. It's a soup of potatoes and cheese. The red spots are from the "achiote", a herb that is often added. Locros can be enriched with meat, eggs, pumpkin and cabbage.
Guatita , pot-dish of innards, often served with a peanut sauce, cooked potatoes and an avocado fruit.
Fritada , braised pieces of pork in its own juice with a side dish of maize (for example mote).
Hornado , baked, sweet pork (also the skin), served with potato purée or "llapingachos" (small potato fritters, filled with cheese) and some salad.

Pescado Frito (fried fish), "Camarones al ajíllo" or "Camarones Apanado" (Shrimps in garlic sauce or coated with breadcrumbs), Calamares (some kind of cuttlefish) and Cangrejo (common crab) are the most fish dishes in the country.

Viche , thick fish soup with pieces of plantain. Not only at the coast a popular dish!

Humitas , sweet maize and egg paste, put in a banana sheet. Additional ingredients are ground peanuts or cheese.

Quimbolitos are sweet maize pockets with raisins, often there's added a shot of sugar-cane liquor.

Empanadas are like pies with a filling and are baked in lard. There are different kinds, depending on the filling: with meat (de carne), with banana (de verde) or with cheese (de queso).

Regional dishes
Andean Highland: Cuy Asado is a grilled guinea pig. Today it's a delicacy in the rural and provincial villages.

Trucha means trout and is served of different kinds in the Andean highland.

In Cotacachi (northern highland) and other villages in the near surroundings (province of Imbabura) many restaurants offer Carne Colorada , a piece of beef, seasoned with the red achiote fruit. Further ingredients are maqueño (fried banana), mote (cooked and peeled maize) and aguacate (avocado).

In Guayaquil , Bollos de Pescado are very famous: doughy dumplings of rubbed plantain, fish, onion, tomato, garlic, herbs, achiote, salt and pepper.

In the northern coastal province of Esmeraldas , fish and seafood are prepared as Encocado . The fried dishes are made of rasped coconut, onions, pepper and garlic and include also venison and other meat of game. This is a typical specialty in this tropical and hot region.

Tapao, also a very typical dish from the province of Esmeraldas consists mainly of cooked fish and plantains.

Desayunos, almuerzos, meriendas
Breakfast is in Spanish desayuno , and usually includes coffee (café), bread (pan), margarine (margarina) or a little piece of cheese (queso), as well as fried eggs (huevos fritos), scrambled eggs (huevos revueltos) or two almost hard cooked eggs in a cup (huevos a la copa).

A lunch with two courses, that is served in most popular restaurants, is called almuerzo in Ecuador. It includes a soup (sopa) and a second course (el segundo) of rice with chicken and a plantain, or a little piece of meat with a few lenses. To drink, they serve a juice or a colada (a mixed drink). But these menus for 1 to 2 Dollars are often not enough filling.

A complete dinner, like the lunch (almuerzo), consisting of two courses, is called merienda . The dinners from the menus (a la carta) in a restaurant or at home are called cena .

Snack stalls
The very common puestos de comida , that are everywhere in the streets, are for the indigenous people a good and cheap alternative to a restaurant. Many different dishes are prepared in these stalls. But as the hygiene conditions are not so high, tourists should prefer a clean restaurant, so they avoid having stomach trouble for the rest of the holidays.

Drinks
Colas are in Ecuador all, non alcoholic drinks with gas. To these belong: Fanta, Sprite, Seven Up, Pepsi, Fruit, Crush, Tropical, Buzz, Orangina, Welch's, Inka Cola etc.; Coca-Cola is just called Coca or Cola Negra.

Fresh juices ( jugos ) are prepared with water, or milk (batido). The variety is huge and reaches from the normal orange juice (jugo de naranja) to the delicious avocado milkshake (batido de aguacate). Fresh juices, sold on the streets are not always recommendable because sometimes the water is not boiled or the ice is not clean.
Here is a little selection of the common fruits to prepare juices: aguacate (avocado), arazá, babaco, banano (banana), chirimoya (custard apple), coco (coconut), durazno (peach), fresa or frutilla (strawberry), granadilla (pomegranate), guanábana, guayaba (guava), limón (lemon), mandarina (tangerine), mango (mango), manzana (apple), maracuyá (passion fruit), melón (melon), mora (blackberry), naranja (orange), naranjílla (some kind of a citrus fruit), papaya (papaya), pera (pear), piña (pineapple), sandía (water- melon), taxo, tomate de árbol, toronja (grapefruit), tuna (cactus fig), zanahoria (carrot).

Pipas Heladas are chilled, with delicious juice filled coconuts.
Coffee is in most restaurants only available as instant coffee. In some traditional coffee houses, they serve a strong coffee stock that comes with hot water or milk, depending on your taste. Particularly in Loja (south of Ecuador), the silver canes with the black essence of coffee are very popular.

Also in small coffee houses in Quito's old town, or in the folkloric Cafetería La Palma in Guayaquil, this traditional, waking up essence is still offered. Modern Espresso machines have in the meantime arrived to Ecuador. The touristy district "La Mariscal" in Quito has several new cafeterias.

Alcohol is also in Ecuador a widespread problem with all its bad consequences in the family life, the traffic and the economy. In 1996, the president Abdalá Bucaram Ortiz, passed a new law, concerning the unlimited consumption of alcohol. Since then, it is forbidden to serve alcohol on Sundays. Even if it doesn't really work on the countryside and several restaurants in big cities serve beer on Sundays, in most places, the law is kept. Also during the week, there is a closing time in the entertainment districts. All bars, discos and night clubs have to close their doors from Monday to Saturday at 2 a.m..
The most consumed alcoholic drink is besides the burning punta (a home-made sugar-cane liquor), beer (cerveza). There are two brands in Ecuador: the clear Pilsener and Club. A cool Nevada, that is almost only available in the south (in one liter bottles) is like European beers.
Good wine (vino), particularly red wine form Chile, Argentina, California or Spain is not only sold in big supermarkets. Much better brands you will find in small liquor shops. Some good brands are: Casillero del Diablo (Chile), Unduraga (Chile), Concha y Toro (Chile), Masson (California).
Cuba Libre (rum-Cola-lemon drink) belongs, with whisky, and other tragos (drinks) to the Ecuadorian standard cocktails. Vodka con Naranja (Screw Driver), Caipirinha (sugar-cane liquor, lemon juice), Caipiroshka (Wodka, lemon juice) or Piña Colada (rum, pineapple juice) are also very popular drinks.

At village parties in the Andean highland (fiestas del pueblo), and in Quito's district parties (fiestas del barrio), is served Canelazo , a spicy hot sugar-cane liquor with cinnamon.
Chicha is a fermented, thick drink of maize, bananas, manioc Quinua or Chonta palm. It is prepared particularly in the Amazon region and is said to have a beneficial effect against kidney stone, constipation and colic.