We’ve gotten quite a few questions about what and how we’ve been eating, so we thought we’d let everyone know about our typical cuisine here in Costa Rica. Other than our week in Manuel Antonio, we haven’t eaten out much, so this post will be more about grocery type food and some of how we’ve been preparing it. One of our best investments so far has been a little charcoal grill – it’s simple, but we’ve already gotten quite a bit of use out of it. Coming from an apartment, grilling has been a nice change. The other big difference to our eating habits has been the amount of FRESH food we’ve been able to eat. We’re not eating many things that aren’t available back home, but here those things are usually cheaper, more plentiful, and better tasting.
Every Friday a farmer and his wife park their produce-filled truck right outside our gate at 7 a.m. He sells just about anything, and it is dirt cheap compared to what we’re used to paying in the States. Check out our haul from this past week:
We got red peppers, potatoes, corn, lettuce, green beans, eggs, broccoli, a pineapple, plantains, and apples. Six bucks. Yes that’s right – $6. And, we didn’t have to haul it back on the bus from across town. Not to mention it is all freshly picked and delicious. So far, the only produce we’ve gotten from him that was not perfect was a few oranges that were picked a little too early. With such low prices for such quality food you can see why we’re eating so much fresh food. Something that has taken a little “getting used to” is the Costa Rican method of egg storage. The way you see them here in the picture is how they stay – eggs don’t get refrigerated here. It seemed strange at first, but they taste the same, and we haven’t gotten sick.
We’ve also started eating tons of fruit. We’ve always eaten strawberries and apples and pineapple, but we eat more now because, again, it is so cheap and so good. Pineapples are usually a dollar or less; you can get a carton of strawberries for less than a dollar. We’ve also started eating fruits we rarely, and sometimes never, have back home: mangos, papaya, plantains, and mamons. Mamons (short for mamon chino or Chinese sucker- also called rambutans) are a funny looking little fruit. They remind me of a little koosh ball. The outside has soft spines. If you squeeze the middle it pops open, and inside is a round fruit about the size and consistency of a grape. The sweet flesh is edible, but there is a seed on the inside that isn’t, so you don’t really eat it – hence the name Chinese “sucker.”
I also mentioned we’ve been eating plantains. We’ve been eating a lot of plantains. You can buy them two ways here: green or ripe (platanos maduros). The green ones are firm and much like a potato. They are often flattened and fried. The good plantains, though, are the ripe – almost to the point of rotten looking – yellow/black ones. These are simple cut into chunks or strips and fried in oil. People put other stuff on them like brown sugar and even cheese, but they are so sweet and good by themselves we haven’t needed to. These are often served as a side dish, but we’ve been eating them like desert. I’d had them before at a Cuban restaurant in Florida, but you don’t see them much back home. On the left is a plantain as it was put in the pan – the right is the finished product.
Something else we’ve found interesting about buying groceries here is the packaging of many products. Goods we buy in jars or small tubs are sold here in bags. It probably saves money, and for some kinds of food, it is actually more convenient.
We’ve also found soup in a bag. The soup is a powder and is as good as anything in a can at home. They don’t just put food in bags. We’ve also bought laundry detergent, dishwashing soap, bleach… pretty much all cleaning supplies.
Here are a few more pictures of foods you can’t leave out if you’re writing about Costa Rica:
*Note: I know we’ve left out the “national dish” of gallo pinto (beans and rice), but we haven’t cooked it yet, and we don’t have any pictures of it yet. We have had our share of it the last few weeks, though.
The first, Lizano Salsa, is everywhere here. It is delicious on gallo pinto. Imperial is one of the local beers – it’s similar to American beers like Budweiser and Coors. The third pictures is guava jam, which is awesome and is kind of like their grape jelly.