Ecuador Food and Drink

Food is a big deal in Ecuador and a cause for people to come together; sharing food is popular with families and also as part of traditional celebrations and fiestas.

Ecuador is a fertile country with three distinct regions. The humidity, heavy rains and high temperatures across these regions suit the growth of tropical crops, meaning that there is a wide range of local foodstuffs available to try alongside the international dishes such as pizza or chifa, Chinese food, found in major cities. These include lots of exotic fruits such as passion fruit, naranjilla, pineapple, guanabana and mora.

There are also three styles of regional cooking. In the highlands look out for hearty fare including locro, a soup of potato, cheese, corn and occasionally half an avocado or empanadas, corn pasties stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables. Llapingachos, cheesy potato cakes, often accompany chorizo or steak, whilst cuy, roasted guinea pig, is also popular. Seco de chivo, mutton stew, and pork, either deep-fried or slow-roasted are also widely available.

Deserts are limited to fruits or morocho de leche, a type of rice pudding tasting of cinnamon. The coast is understandably good for seafood, with ceviche, raw seafood ‘cooked’ in lime and chilli and encocados, a type of fish dish with creamy Caribbean flavours. In the Oriente, things are simpler, with rice, banana, yucca (a type of manioc root) and fish, including piranha, often served up, sometimes with game such as wild pig. Most food isn’t spicy but is inevitably accompanied by a bowl of aji or hot pepper sauce for the bold to add at their peril.

Ecuador has some of the best beer in South America; the most popular brand is Pilsener, along with Club and Biela. Good, inexpensive Chilean and Argentinian wine is available, alongside pricier international drinks. In the highlands look out for chicha, a type of fermented maize drink of varied potency. It can also be made from yucca and palm fruit in other parts of the country. Also be wary of aguardiente, a sugar cane spirit sometimes known as cana or punta that can be very strong indeed. Restaurants have waiter service and there are cafe-style bars. The country is a major producer of coffee but often only instant is available. Tea is usually taken without milk but with lemon.

Specialities

Cuy (roasted guinea pig).
• Llapingachos (pancakes stuffed with mashed potato and cheese).
• The best of the jungle fruits include chirimoya, with a delicious custard-like inside; mamey, which has a red, sweet, squash-like meat; and pepinos, a sweet white and purple striped cucumber-like fruit.
• Shrimp or lobster ceviche. This is traditionally accompanied by popcorn and chifles (thinly sliced and fried green bananas).
Locro (soup of potatoes, corn and cheese).

Things to know

Alcohol cannot be sold after 0200.

Tipping

12% tax and 10% service charge are usually added to the bill in hotels and restaurants. If the service has been good, add an additional quantity for the staff. In cheaper establishments, tip your server directly.

Regional drinks

Naranjilla (fruit juice with a taste somewhere between citrus and peach).
Canelazo (made from sugar cane, alcohol, lemon, sugar and cinnamon).
Pisco - the local brandy.
Chicha (fermented corn drink).
Herbal teas made from native plants.

Drinking age

18.

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