Cooking in Ecuador

Personally, one of the most difficult parts for me is cooking in Ecuador. Even though neither my family or I are fans a prepackaged meals, I do miss some of the conveniences of cooking back home.

For example, being able to go to ONE store and buy everything I need for almost any meal I could want to make, is a luxury I just don't have.

Plus there are several other things that are different about cooking when living in Ecuador. 

Shopping

Usually, for me, the most daunting part of cooking is getting everything I need. This often means going to several stores and to the market for fresh produce. And I am usually limited to buying what I can carry.

There is an amazing variety of fresh produce to try. Don't be afraid to buy something new and see if you like it. Learn about some of the foods grown in Ecuador.

Fresh produce from the market.Fresh produce from the market.

In bigger cities you can find more cooking ingredients. So, when we do go to Quito or Ambato, we usually make a trip to SuperMaxi (one of the best grocery chains in Ecuador) to stock up. I usually buy things like different kinds of vinegars, cheeses, and peanut butter. Still I often find myself having to make due with what I can find here in Tena.

Cooking with Gas

I know most people have their own preference...gas or electric. I really don't mind either way. But for cooking in Ecuador, gas is still the cooking fuel of choice. 

Also gas is subsidized by the Ecuadorian government, making it a much cheaper option. The government is planning to phase out subsidized gas and make electric (induction) cooking options available over the next few years.

Having gas lines into your house, connected to a large propane tank is usually only available in modern apartment buildings in Ecuador. Here you buy 60 lb tanks of propane as you need it and hook it up to your stove much like your would a gas grill.

My stove and gas tank setup.My stove and gas tank setup.

A tank costs around $60. But refills only cost $2.50 and the propane truck goes by almost everyday honking his horn. So if I need a new tank I have to be ready to run out and catch him as soon as I hear him. 

I keep an extra tank because it never fails that I run out right when I'm baking a cake or rushing to make dinner. This way I can just switch out the empty tank and there's no hurry to get a new one since a tank will usually last me several months.

Substitutes 

I'm not against Ecuadorian food, but I do like to prepare meals similar to what I would eat back home. This often means getting creative.

Just about everything you'll be cooking in Ecuador will be from scratch. Prepackaged foods are becoming more common, but most families still prepare all of their food themselves. But this means you may have to prepare even basic ingredients yourself.

For example, I often find recipes that require some sort of canned tomatoes. So this usually means using fresh tomatoes and adding water or other liquid for the liquid you would find in a can of tomatoes.

I love the Internet so much for finding recipes. You can find a recipe online for ANYTHING! So I've learned how to make a lot of new things: ciabatta and other breads, spaghetti sauce, salad dressings and even butter.

However, when I find a recipe I'd like to make I often have to substitute some ingredients. But again the Internet is a great resource. I've been able to find lots of substitute ideas online and the recipes often turn out pretty good.

The Oven 

Many Ecuadorians do not use an oven...ever. A lot of families have just a cook-top or if they do have an oven it's often used for storage.

I do use my oven a lot. But the oven does not have a very sophisticated temperature regulating system. So in addition the temperature setting on the oven (in Celsius degrees), I use an oven thermometer to try to get close to the right temperature  Over the years I've gotten used to my oven and know more of less how to get the temp I want.

Also be careful with gas ovens! If the flame goes out make sure you air out the oven thoroughly before you relight it. Fire balls and burnt eye lashes are not fun.

Keeping the Family Healthy 

Another concern when cooking in Ecuador is to make sure foods are properly prepared. This means thoroughly cleaning fruits and vegetables. I use a cleansing liquid (either Vitalin or KILOL) mixed with tap water to soak any produce that will be eaten fresh or won't be cooked long. Follow the directions on the bottle to know the cleaner to water ratio and the amount of time foods need to soak. You can also use a bleach and water mixture or vinegar and water.

Soaking tomatoesSoaking tomatoes before using

As a rule anything cooked less than 15 minutes or eaten raw I soak.

Another concern is the water. I use a mixture of clean bottled water and tap water depending on what I'm making. Again my general rule is: if the water will be boiled less than 15 minutes, I use bottled or boiled water. 

So when making noodles I will boil the tap water a few minutes before adding the noodles to make sure the water will be boiled a total of 15 minutes. I also will use tap water when making rice, since brown rice simmers for over 30 minutes.

Boiling YucaBoiling Yuca

Washing Up 

After cooking in Ecuador, even the clean up can be a bit different that we are used to. Most kitchens have no hot water. My mom will often heat up water to wash.

Also liquid dish soap isn't commonly used. Most people use a solid soap that comes in a tub or in bars and a sponge to wash dishes, but you can buy liquid soap now.

Dish soap in EcuadorDish soap in Ecuador

Cooking Ecuadorian 

Of course, to make Ecuadorian cuisine you need go only as far as the corner store for your ingredients. I've been learning to make some of my favorite Ecuadorian dishes like llapingachos, locro de papas and locro de habas.

Making fried yuca.Making fried yuca

The best resource for Ecuadorian recipes to be found online is laylita.com. This website has an amazing variety of recipes, often with a little added flavor. I love this site and use it a lot!


Some of these things may seem like a bit of a hassle, but after awhile it just becomes second nature. However you may find cooking to be a bit more time consuming than you are used to.

I think by cooking in Ecuador I've become a better cook, especially since I've been forced to be more resourceful when making something new. But there are days that the cooking can be a bit overwhelming. Those days we go out to eat! :)


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› Cooking in Ecuador

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