Ecuador is the country of 4 worlds: each with diverse flavors, some grains grow on fertile grounds, while other gastronomies are based on skillful fishing techniques or meticulous preparation methods and a communal wisdom of natural remedies. Our ancestral flavors have been brewed, harvested and cooked, and they have been passed down from generation to generation as a kind of storytelling that revolves around the kitchen. In a country full of riches, natural and cultural, its gastronomy is nothing less than remarkable.
Found in the Amazon, casabe is harvested from the grounds, peeled, grated, and squeezed with a cane sifter. Once dry, it is cooked on top of a clay pot until it is golden. Casabe tortillas are prepared by the women in the tribes of the Amazon, and their preparation is a kind of ritual where women from different families share and spend time in the kitchen, performing the important duty of feeding their families.
Did you know? Casabe tortillas are usually accompanied by a salad but you can try other toppings such as marmalade.
A seed of the Andes, and a sacred crop to the Incas, Quinoa has been an important staple of Ecuador for almost 7,000 years and continues to be reinvented in today’s culinary climate. Its name originates from Quechua (kinwa), and although it is grain-like, this seed is family to spinach and beets. Some of our favorite dishes with quinoa: quinoa tortillas (Quinoa is cooked and then turned into a kind of tortilla with butter and filled with cheese), quinoa as base (it is a nutritional replacement for rice).
Legend says that Guayusa was a gift from the spirits in heaven, given to twin brothers from a community in the Amazon after they had asked for a plant that would teach them how to dream and connect with the spirit world. After having met the spirit of their ancestors in a dream-like state, the brothers woke up with Guayusa in their hands and took it back to their community. Since then, it has been rooted in their culture and brewed in rituals. Almost as strong as coffee (once it is brewed), Guayusa is a plant found in the Amazon with enough caffeine to give you an energy boost that will last through the day. Indigenous communities that drink Guayusa tea have now began to commercialize it because this superleaf, besides from its energizing properties, is also beneficial for the heart, and has plenty of antioxidants.
Did you know? Almost 98 percent of guayusa (in the world!) is found in Ecuador.
Chupe de pescado:
In the Coast of Ecuador, chupe de pescado is a traditional soup served during Easter. Its original preparation and recipe was first introduced to Ecuador when religious conquistadors had to find an alternative to meet during the Easter season. However, the name “Chupe” has Quecha origins, which suggests that this plate was actually rooted in pre-Hispanic times. A type of fish chowder, Chupe de Pescado, accompanied with potatoes, cheese and corn, are definitely on our Easter list.
Cacao beans from the Ecuadorian rainforest are famous worldwide. But much before the global boom, almost 5,000 years ago, inhabitants of the South Eastern territory of Ecuador discovered this marvellous product. Cacao was not only a sacred beverage for indigenous communities along South América (and even reaching Central América), but it was also regarded as a costly product. Luckily, farmers from the region have preserved the knowledge of cacao cultivation and are now working to export raw material (beans), semi-finished products, and also finished products (delicious chocolates!).
Fishing and hunting have been central to the subsistence of indigenous tribes of the Amazon, who have learned the skill of preparing Maito as a delicacy from the Ecuadorian rainforest. Wrapped and steamed in bijao leaves, the freshwater fish (from the Amazonian rivers) is slowly prepared, resulting in a mouthwatering plate. The leaves are held with toquilla straw and when unwrapped reveal a beautifully cooked fish season with salt and garlic, ready to be tasted.
Wherever you travel in Ecuador, you will encounter interesting flavors, full of nutrients, made with secret preparation methods, full of tradition and soul!