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

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ecuadorian food: more than bananas

You may have guessed that people in Ecuador eat only bananas. And maybe an occasional pineapple. But that isn't the whole story. As it turns out, they also eat a lot of good street food. When we got our camera fixed, we discovered that we had been taking all our pictures on underwater macro mode, which makes everything super zoomed, so sorry for the closeups in some of the pictures.

The first picture wasn't even clear enough to see, but it was Tara holding a glass of white stuff just as we got across the border into Ecuador. It tasted like melted ice cream and was really good. We later discovered that it is a popular drink made of cream, milk, and oats. Really tasty. And it had oats, so it was healthy.

Once we made it to Puerto Lopez on the Ecuadorian coast, the street food abounded. We jokingly call this city the Brigadoon of street food. You would find the most amazing food, walk a block to try something else, come back for seconds, and the vendor was gone. Ecuador was the first place we had been where street vendors apparently roam rather than staying in one spot for the day.

Here is Tara trying a sweet coconut bread in Puerto Lopez. The bakeries were not bad, and very cheap. What I don't have a picture of is her eating the first cheese bread of the trip. More on that later.
We discovered these people that sold a big pile of fries covered with tasty chicken breast (and doused in ketchup and mayo) for $1. Not surprisingly, they disappeared after our first night in Puerto Lopez.

Sometimes, we go wrong with street food. This most often occurs when I see something that looks tasty, knowing in my heart that it probably isn't as good as it looks, but thinking, "what if it is the best food around and I miss out on it?" That thought resulted in this purchase of some dry rolled up cake stuff with the fairly tasteless sugary icing from a homeless looking guy hawking them to a bus of senior citizen tourists outside our hotel. Nonetheless, I ate all of them.

The underwater macro mode made this photo look much better than it probably would have otherwise been. Tara looks like a devil fish accepting her meat sacrifice. This spiral sausage had some nice french fries stuck on the end for Tara's enjoyment.

Our biggest victory in Puerto Lopez was milkshakes. I had been craving real milkshakes for at least a few weeks. We came upon some teenagers in the street who would mix homemade ice cream with fresh fruit and sell a big milkshake like the one in the lower right of this photo for 75 cents. We each had a strawberry one and a pineapple one. We came back the next night before our bus left town, but, alas, they weren't there.

We took a long walk in the cloud forest outside Puerto Lopez, and it was really beautiful despite not seeing any birds. Our talented guide, Juan, saw a grapefruit still hanging on the tree (it is past the season), chopped off a stick with his trusty machete, and perfectly hit the branch above the grapefruit to make it fall. I generally find grapefruit to be bad, but this one was almost sweet enough to be edible. (Those who know me are aware that sweetness is my primary determinant of good or bad in food, and really in people, I suppose.)

Tara found some guanabana yogurt and a sausage in a roll for breakfast. She loved the sausage pastry, but we returned less than five minutes after buying it for another and the vendor was gone. We looked around for a few blocks, but he had vanished.

Tara seems to be in more food pictures than me, but we both eat a lot. I just happen to be holding the camera more. In this one, she is eating freshly fried plantain chips. Made more interesting because they put a salad and mayo on top. It is a lot better than it sounds.

When we made it to Quito, we arrived at 3:30 in the morning. Because Tara and I knew we would have to pay an extra night if we checked into a hotel then, we decided to wait a couple hours at the nice new (though cold) bus station. While there, we had some excellent hot chocolate and some not so excellent churros.
Once we arrived in Quito proper, however, Tara immediately noticed that every other restaurant was a pan de yuca and yogurt place. For those who Tara hasn't forced to go to the Colombian bakery she frequents in New York, pan de yuca is also know as cheese bread or cheese rocks. It is one of several types of cheesy breads that you will learn more about in the Colombia food section, but it is one of her favorite foods on earth, along with yogurt. Thus, the combination of these foods made her so happy that I feared she might have a stroke right there on the main street of Quito. Here is an unfortunately large picture of the yogurt, a small pastry that I ate, and the smallish cheese breads on the far right. Tara took it upon herself to sample them from each different place until she was literally sick. She did this each day we were in Quito until she had possibly tried each of the 800 places that all looked the same to me.

We now enter the phase when my camera was being repaired, so I have to describe the food in words rather than pictures.
Our first night in Quito, we ate at a Mongolian barbeque. It was $6 for all-you-can eat food with a salad and drink thrown in for good measure. My guess is they priced this deal for Ecuadorians and maybe the occasional French person. They definitely lost money on me. I ate a lot, and still felt good after.
The next day, we had an interesting ball of coconut and molasses on the street. I really don't like molasses (surprising, I know), but it wasn't bad. Tara liked it more than I did.
For dinner, we had semi-authentic Southern BBQ at a place called Adam's Rib. Owned by Americans and frequented by Americans, we had fairly good smoked babyback ribs for a place in Equador. They claim to be the best BBQ south of the equator, and we haven't found anywhere to disprove that notion.
We also had a big cup of fruit salad on the street. This seemed good at first, and was really cheap, but then I got a bite that tasted like poison. That's exactly how I described it to Tara at the time. Unfortunately, in my disgust, a panic caused me to swallow rather than spit. Had I known what I know now, I would have made Tara punch me in the gut until I spit it back up.
I ate something that made me violently ill. Maybe the fruit salad poison, maybe not. Without going into details, I didn't move farther than from the bed to the bathroom for a day and a half. However, I made that trip enough to walk about 15 miles. During that time, I suspect that Tara mostly ate cheese bread, though she would dutifully bring me back fake gatorade, which was all that I consumed for a couple days. By the time I was better, we had to skip a sidetrip we wanted to take, but we had our camera back.

At the store, I pointed out to Tara that Ecuador was really her kind of country. It was the only place we have been where yogurt comes in gallons.
In Ecuador and Colombia, tomato del arbol, or tomato of the tree, is a really popular fruit. We tried a shake made of one when the camera was out of order, and it did taste a bit like tomato. Not terrible, but we would never go out of our way to get it. Here is a picture of some.

After not eating for a few days, here is the first thing I ate: grape jello. Jello is really popular on the streets in Peru and Ecuador and I had been wanting to try some. The timing seemed appropriate and they had grape, which everyone knows to be the best flavor. It tasted just like American jello. Not sure what I expected, but at least it didn't taste like poison.

Tara got a mix of guanabana and raspberry juice at the market in Otavalo. It was fairly good. I don't have a picture of a guanabana for those reading, so look it up on the Internet. It looks sort of like a mutant pineapple.
I went from my grape jello to a concoction of fried potatoes with fried meat topped with a tomato salad. The meat was bad, but the potatoes were tasty. I later regretted this decision as my stomach informed me that I was an idiot and that it was going on strike for several hours.
Tara liked my potatoes enough to go and ask a lady if she could just buy the potatoes. Despite being skeptical of the idea, the woman sold them to her and put them in this nice bucket so that Tara had a bucket of potatoes. We had a similar bucket when I was a kid that held Mr. Potato Head.

From Otavalo, we traveled to Ibarra, a town specializing in ice cream. And specifically specializing in fruit flavored ice cream. Fortunately, my stomach had forgiven me for the earlier fried food and was good with ice cream. We started at Rosalia Suarez, the most famous of these ice cream places (and apparently the original). We wanted to try a couple places, so we started with the cones, which were smaller than the cups. I had raspberry and coconut while Tara had taxo (related to passionfruit) and coconut.
At first, this picture might look like a second shot of the one above. But, then you might notice that the ice cream flavors are different. The first was so good that we got seconds. I stuck to the amazing coconut and tried strawberry. Tara outright stole my first combination. They were really great, but we knew that other ice cream places awaited.

So, we went to the second most famous place in town. It was slightly cheaper, and good, but not as good as the first place. Note that by this point I had upgraded to the larger cup size. After this place, we tried two other places, which got progressively worse. If you ever go to Ibarra, stick to Rosalia Suarez. It's the best.

So, after eating ice cream from four different places, we caught a bus to the Colombian border. Ecuador left a positive food impression on us, and I don't think we ate a single banana while there (though there was some in the fruit salad that stayed in my body for only a few hours). Tara could live on cheese bread and yogurt forever (I would starve on the same), and we could both eat street fries and shakes for most of our meals. It also helped to keep our food cost down for Ecuador. In conclusion, hooray for cheap street food and boo for the bacteria contained in cheap street food.


  1. the ice cream looks DECADENT. i've been making my own with my new ice cream maker, but i could totally eat the ones straight out of your photos! (andy, though we've never met, i'm so glad you're feeling better! tara, you look fabulous (as usual)!)

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.