Ecuador: More Than Cocoa

Did you know that Ecuador has many active volcanoes and probably the greatest densities of volcanoes globally?

Did you know that all the three species of vampire bats are found in Ecuador?

Did you know that almost 60% of the world’s premium cocoa is produced in Ecuador?

These were some of the facts that Ecuador’s Consul General in India, Héctor Cueva Jácome, revealed. He also spoke about the country’s unique culinary culture, for instance the bizcochos, a shortbread pastry that is special to Cayambe near the country’s capital, Quito.

POPULAR INGREDIENTS
Ecuador has five distinct geographic regions: the Galapagos Islands, the Pacific Coast, the Amazon rain forests, the Cloud Forest and the Andean Sierra Highlands. Each region has its unique cuisines, though there are some similarities too. One such commonality is the use of fresh seafood, especially along the Pacific Coast, the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon.

The use of fresh local produce is very evident in most dishes of the country. Vegetables, beans (a favourite with Ecuadorians) and fruits are cultivated in the highlands and all over the country, which ensures supply of fresh produce all year round.
The use of fresh local produce is very evident in most dishes of the country. Vegetables, beans (a favourite with Ecuadorians) and fruits are cultivated in the highlands and all over the country, which ensures supply of fresh produce all year round.

The use of fresh local produce is very evident in most dishes of the country. Vegetables, beans (a favourite with Ecuadorians) and fruits are cultivated in the highlands and all over the country, which ensures supply of fresh produce all year round.

Rice and corn are part of the staple diet of the country along with some meat and vegetables. The other must-have in every meal in certain parts of the country is plantains and other tropical fruits. This healthy diet accounts for the robust physiques and untiring stamina of the locals!

However, what this country is better known for is its premium quality cocoa, the core ingredient for the one food that has the world swooning – chocolate. In fact, one archaeological study suggests that Ecuador was probably the original home of the cocoa bean.

SOME TRADITIONAL FARE
Like any other country, Ecuador too has some traditional dishes that might not be popular, but are regarded as comfort food by locals. Here is a look at some of them, which include the ingredients that are most commonly found in the cuisine:

FANESCA ECUATORIANA
The folks of Ecuador make the most of the seafood that is amply available to them. This traditional soup is quite special because it is only made once a year – during Easter. It contains a variety of porotos, or beans, some of which are found only in the Andean Sierra highlands including fava beans and cannellini beans. Sometimes mellocos, which are small and very starchy Andean potatoes as well as chochos, also known as lupini beans, are also added to this Easter soup.

Another key ingredient to Fanesca is the Bacalao Seco or dried salt cod, which has to be soaked for 24 hours properly so that the saltiness of the fish does not make the soup bitter.

Empanadas De Viento combines gooey cheese and onions inside a crispy fried empanada that is topped with powdered sugar.
Empanadas De Viento combines gooey cheese and onions inside a crispy fried empanada that is topped with powdered sugar.

LLAPINGACHOS
Potatoes are one of most important crops in Ecuador, especially amongst the Andean highlanders, and there are over 200 varieties of potato found in the country. It is part of most meals, in one form or the other.

Llapingachos is an Ecuadorian dish, which can have different consistencies, either to make patties or thick potato pancakes stuffed with cheese. Also called Yapingachos, they make for a great breakfast or brunch dish, and can be served on their own as an appetizer or even as a full meal accompanied by a tasty peanut sauce or Salsa De Mani, fried egg, sausages, pickled onion and tomato salad, some lettuce, avocado slices and Aji Criollo hot sauce.

EMPANADAS DE VIENTO!
Cheese is another ingredient that makes its presence felt in Ecuadorian cuisine. Empanadas De Viento combines gooey cheese and onions inside a crispy fried empanada that is topped with powdered sugar. This appetizer is often served during breakfast or as an afternoon snack.

]One thing can be said about Ecuadorian cuisine – it is not for the faint hearted. Though exquisite and comforting at the same time, the one thing an average person needs a er a hearty meal is a nice long siesta. Enough said.