Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Thanksgiving non-feast, and other foods of Nicaragua

Nicaragua is hot, so we eat a lot of ice cream here. Eskimo is the brand that is widely available in scoop shops and supermarkets. It's not amazing ice cream, but it is usually fairly cheap and, as you can see here, brightly colored.

Even cheaper were the "helados castillo" we found for sale in Rivas, our first stop in southern Nicaragua--little plastic bags of homemade ice cream. As you can see from the sign, just 3 cordobas each, or 15 cents. Andy is holding up mani (peanut) and a coco (coconut) ones.

The funnest helado castillo was the tutifruti flavor, which turned out to be basically frozen fruit salad. Can you see the banana and papaya chunks?

Another treat I found at a local bakery in Rivas--"dedos de queso," or cheese fingers. Hooray for cheese bread in Central America!

Something else we like to eat in Nicaragua is homemade candy, which is often coconut-based. That same bakery sold assorted candies for 10 cents each, and we thought we had hit the jackpot!

But the next night, we learned that people out in the street were selling even bigger versions of the same candies for the same price! The pink one in Andy's mouth is coconut and the orange one in my mouth papaya. (Also, note the horse cart in the street to our left! Lots of these in Nicaragua.)

Next to the candy-sellers was a woman selling little sweet breads in the street. They turned out to be made with squash, or at least tasted like it. That seemed rather Thanksgiving-appropriate to us, though it was not yet Thanksgiving.

The only yogurt I could find that was actually made in Nicaragua was Parmalat brand, but it turned out to be really tasty. This drinkable one had huge chunks of real pineapple in it. Delicious!

Andy bought this tamale on the bus to Masaya. (Which was an old school bus, retired to serve public transport needs in Nicaragua after its years of ferrying about American schoolchildren, by the way.)

In Nicaragua, sno cones are called "raspados," and the syrup is thick with chunks of fruit in it, kind of like pie topping. That probably sounds delicious, but hang on. There seem to be two versions--the cheap (20 cent), streetside versions, with day-glo colored toppings, and the more expensive, "traditional" versions, which cost a dollar or more in shops and whose toppings seem to be naturally flavored/colored with molasses.

Sadly, we went for the more expensive version first, and it was vile. The molasses taste was so strong that Andy quit after two bites (I think that the one sugary thing in the world he does not like is molasses) and even I couldn't finish it. We almost never throw food away, but part of this pineapple raspado ended up in the trash. (Luckily, we were brave enough to try the cheap street version several times later in the trip and we loved it!)
Andy had to buy this peanut-brittle-like candy on the street in Masaya to wash the bad raspado taste out of his mouth.

And this gingery candy, which at 1 cordoba (5 cents US) may be the cheapest single piece of street food we have ever bought. Nice to know you can still get something for a nickle in Nicaragua.
Lunch in Masaya was "baho," a stew-like dish of flavorful beef, yucca, and sweet plantains, covered with salad and onions and served on a banana leaf. Oh look, I found a recipe for it. Delicious! (Not so cheap, though--1 portion cost almost $3 US. Luckily, it was big enough to share.)
Masaya is Nicaragua's "capital of culture," and is famous for its handicrafts market. Andy and I visited, and of course did not buy handicrafts, but food! Here is Andy enjoying his giant triangle pastry with pineapple jam in the center (better known as a hammentaschen to you fellow Jews out there).

Whereas I found...more cheese bread! Yaaaay!

Back to ice cream. Banana splits are a popular menu item at Eskimo ice cream shops in Nicaragua. Or at least popular with us. Note how melty this one is--Nicaragua is HOT.

Something else I had never had in my life was Fanta, and I thought that I should probably try some in Latin America. Andy said that the orange kind is really good, so why shouldn't the red kind be good as well? Well, he was wrong, and we both agreed that it was pretty gross.

We were in Masaya for Thanksgiving, but short of one frozen turkey in the case at the supermarket, we saw no signs that anyone was celebrating it anywhere. So we went to a folkloric dance show that night instead, and decided to "splurge" on a dinner at the overpriced venue restaurant. The dancing was great, but the food was boring, not hot, and the service was crappy. Boo!

But here are the promised pictures of our Thanksgiving non-feast. Andy got the "Hawaiian" beef, which turned out to be beef with pineapple on top...

And I got chicken in mushroom sauce. If you see any mushrooms in this picture, please let me know.
So much for Thanksgiving. I did have one piece of that squash bread left over back at our hotel, so we shared it for dessert. Family, we are so looking forward to turkey, mash, pies, etc. at Christmas!

OK, on to the colonial, lakeside city of Granada, the next stop in our culinary tour of Nicaragua. The food I have here is called a quesillo, and it is actually more typical of northern Nicaragua than of Granada, but that's where I got one.

It is a hot tortilla filled with mozzarella cheese, onions, and sour cream. (Yes, I relaxed my no-melted-cheese rule to try this specialty.) It wasn't bad, but I never felt the need to get another.


I went for size (left), Andy went for filling. We found them a little dense, but fairly tasty.

Granada had its own fair share of tasty meals served in banana leaves. This plate had a bit of everything--rice and beans, plantain chips, sweet plantains, chicken, and salad. The sweet plantains were especially amazing.

The real local specialty of Granada, though, is called "vigoron." It's a rather filling dish of yucca, fried pork skins (or "cracklings"), and salad (served in a banana leaf, natch). Not a combination Andy or I would ever rustle up at home, but I guess it was worth trying once.

Here's a close-up of the vigoron.

Remember that naranjilla we took a picture of in Panama? Well, we bought one in the supermarket in Grananda to try. It was so gross that we pitched it after one bite each. Definitely consistency of a tomato, but I think it may have been underripe...

The baby watermelon we shared was better than the naranjilla, though would have been improved if it had been refrigerated and if it had had about 1 million fewer seeds.

The hot dogs in Nicaragua are really, really long! Andy's was served with a cabbage salad, ketchup, and mayo.

Another tasty combo plate we got from a street griller, this time at the festival in Managua. Rice and beans, plantain chips, sweet plantain, salad, and "mongo," which was some sort of patty with rice and sausage bits and we're not sure what else. We don't really want to know, because we both thought it was tasty, but we also both suspect that it is closely related to black pudding...
Also at the fiesta in Managua--grill-blackened corn cobs. Very popular, and they looked fun, but they sort of tasted like I imagine a decorative Christmas corncob tastes (i.e., dry).

Then, of course, I couldn't find anywhere to throw away my cob for a few hours. ("Is that a corncob in your pocket, Tara, or are you just happy to see me?")

Breakfast at a panaderia in Managua around the corner from our hostel: pineapple-filled empanadas, large and small; a cinnamon roll and a pineappley roll; and two rugaluch-type pastries (called "misterios" for some reason), all for $1.50. They were OK, I guess, but looked better than they tasted.

Terre Haute, Indiana, residents will appreciate that this product is available in fine supermarkets Nicaragua-wide!
Another drinkable yogurt I tried at our last destination in the country, Leon. Yoplait brand, frutas mixtas. Eh, shoulda stuck with the Parmalat.
In conclusion, most of the foods in Nicaragua are similar to what you might find in other nearby countries, with a few rather strange, but interesting national specialties (like quesillos and vigoron). Restaurants here are surprisingly expensive considering how cheap lodging and transport are, so we found ourselves sharing meals a fair amount, hitting up the grocery stores, and (shockingly!) eating a lot of street food.

On to the pupusas of El Salvador next!

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I just realized it's your six-month anniversary. Happy anniversary (semianniversary?)!