Tuesday, January 07, 2014
This is the Ecuadorean corn from which the tostado is made. They call this corn choclo and it is one of the main staples of Ecuadorean cooking. The kernels are quite large, chewy and flavorful and boiled choclo is served at many meals. The etiquette for eating it, unlike here where we gnaw the corn off the cob, is to pick the kernels off the cob with your fingers and pop them into your mouth, or drop them into your soup. The big mid-day meal nearly always includes soup. Choclo is also made into mote (mo-tay) which is like hominy. The kernels are boiled in water with lime (the mineral, not the fruit) which boils the skin off and changes the texture and flavor. Mote pillo is mote scrambled with eggs and is delicious—a major Ecuadorean comfort food.
Did you know that potatoes originated in the Andes? You find many, many varieties in the markets and the most favorite soup is locro de papas—potato soup. We love it. It is a simple, creamy potato soup that is a beautiful golden color from the addition of the annatto spice. Ecuadoreans tell me that annatto has a flavor, but it escapes me. I think it is used mostly for the color! The soup is served with slices of avocado and a generous chunk of queso fresco (fresh cheese).
The chochos are very unusual. They are crunchy little beans with a nice mild, nutty flavor. I found this article about them, which says they are "super food"!
Most of my friends are surprised to learn that Ecuadorean food is nothing like Mexican or Caribbean food, and not at all spicy in itself. But on every table is a bowl of aji, a hot sauce with a fruity basis. It adds the spice and is both hot and sweet.
A very traditional Ecuadorean meat delicacy is cuy, which is what we know as guinea pig. We have eaten it on a previous trip, but not this trip. Not as horrifying as one might expect, but not a big favorite for me!
As usual we ate our way through Ecuador and enjoyed most everything! Food is such a great adventure when you travel. One meal stands out, however, and it was not even traditional Ecuadorean food. The day we flew to Cuenca to visit the family of our son-in-law happened to be Thanksgiving day in the United States. Of course Thanksgiving is unknown in Ecuador so we knew we were missing it this year. We spent the day vicariously enjoying our friends' turkeys and pies as posted on Facebook. When we arrived, that night, in Cuenca at the Molina home we were greeted with a table laden with a full Thanksgiving dinner—turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy and more. All researched online and prepared by the family for us.
Never before has a Thanksgiving dinner made me feel more grateful, humble and blessed. Food for the body and food for the soul.