There are certain truths that exist in Ecuador. It isn't one of those countries blessed with an adventuresome palate. The indigenous population has never felt the need to augment their basic food supply with tons of spice or over the top flavour. Now, that isn't to say that there isn't good food here. Sure, their favourite "spice" is salt, but Ecuadorian chefs are masters at soup and fried chicken. (You heard it here first!)
|Pasta with Kale and Peppers|
Cuy is a food for celebrating here and can be quite pricey. Word of warning: the guinea pig is often served with its head...the incisors can be quite off putting, as are the little burnt ears and blackened paws. Besides that, if you get it from the right place, it's quite delicious.
|Play find the head!|
Beef is a tough one here...literally. While you can get decent (and even excellent) beef, more frequently it is pretty tough. Why, you might ask? Because they don't age the meat usually. That old joke about cutting the horns off and running it through the frying pan...well that actually happens here (kind of). Aging is a critical step in breaking down the meat fiber and if the beef isn't cooked low and slow or under pressure, it resembles old shoe leather. That being said, I've had some pretty amazing steak here, but the chef's know what they're doing or import meat from places that do.
There is also a wealth of fruits and vegetables. Where the vegetables get to, besides in the soup, is a bit of a mystery to me. The traditional style almuerzos (two/three course lunches) usually only have a mild nod to rabbit food. The fruit usually winds up in juice, which is almost always super tasty, as well.
|Vegetarian Almuerzo Option|
Of course, the capital, Quito, has a really good range of foods, if you're willing to splurge a little to get them. (That's a relative phrase here, as you can get a fairly solid almuerzo for $2.50.) Cuenca's food scene is eternally developing and more restaurants are opening that focus on flavour and quality ingredients as opposed to cheap and fast. This is a good thing, but the Cuencano palate is generally geared towards blander foods, so the restaurateurs have their challenges.
All this being said, don't be afraid to go out and try bollos (stuffed and fried plantain balls), maduros (ripe plantain with fresh cheese), empanadas, ceviche and skewers of meat fried street side. A must is to try salchipapas - hot dogs on fries usually with all sorts of toppings like ketchup, mayonnaise, salad and other things - it's the snack of champions here,