Food from Ecuador is greatly varied due to the various climate regions. On the coast and in the jungle regions, tropical weather makes for tropical vegetation including many tropical fruits. In the Andes, the spring like weather yields many common foods in interesting varieties.
A walk through an Ecuadorian market gives a good idea of the varied selection available. Many items are strange and almost extraterrestrial. Other items are very familiar, until you taste them.
Grapefruits for one are the same size, though usually more green than the bright yellow. Inside white fruit filled with seeds stings your tongue with tartness.
Lemons and limes are abundant with several varieties available. What many would call a key lime is available (though it is referred to as a lemon) as are large green lemons with a yellow interior. Limas look like a large lemon, but have a very mild taste.
Some of the strangest looking are guavas. These long pods are filled with large brown seeds. Surrounding the seeds is a sweet, juicy fruit, with a cotton like texture. Strange, but quite delicious.
One of my favorites are the maracuyás, a variety of passion fruit. The yellow outer layer is thick and inedible. Cut the fruit in half and you find a seedy goo inside. The seed aren't great to eat either, so most people blend and strain the pulp. Add some water and you have a wonderfully refreshing drink, with a taste that's hard to compare to anything I've ever tried.
Bananas aren't just the long yellow things we're used to. A popular variety is the orito a much smaller version of the banana. The inside is more orange than white and the taste is often sweeter than what we're used to. Also among food from Ecuador, are red bananas and plantains.
Arazá is another interesting fruit. The outer skin is a bit fuzzy like a peach, with the inside full of tart pulp. Most people blend it into juice.
Achotillo looks like achoite, but it isn't! It has a white juicy inside and a hairy red outside.
I could go on and on. There is such a great variety of exotic fruits to choose from. A recent suggestion I read was to just go to the market and buy every strange fruit you see. Have the locals explain to you the fruit and how it is eaten. Then try it for yourself!
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The Andean food from Ecuador isn't quite as exotic as the large array of tropical fruit, but there are some interesting finds here as well.
One of the strangest tastes I've ever tried is the tomate de arbol (tree tomato). This is commonly served throughout the country, but most commonly in the mountains. This orange-red fruit is made into juice with a flavor that's very unique. Many love it, although I'm not too fond of it personally.
Potatoes are a staple of the Andean diet. Dozens of variety are cultivated, although my mother sarcastically calls the varieties: dirty, dirtier and caked with dirt. It's true that your potatoes will not usually be scrubbed to a shine before you buy them (unless you buy them in the supermarket). They seem to just pull them out of the ground and bring them directly to market. Makes for a little more work on your end, but a good potato dish is worth the effort. The locals have a preferred papa for different dishes, like the "super chola" for french fries or the "cecilia" for soups.
Corn is the other main ingredient to many Andean dishes. But it's not the sweet corn we are used to. The corn is huge! The stalks in the field seem to reach 15 feet high with huge ears of corn. The corn is white and not sweet. It is often sold slathered in a cheese sauce to add some flavor to it.
Corn is also made into mote (hominy). And is very popular as a snack or in soup.
Yuca just seemed to need its own section. This tuber is grown in the jungle and coastal regions of Ecuador and sold throughout the country. It is similar to potatoes, just more starchy and stringy. I have acquired a taste for it a actually enjoy it now. It's texture initially didn't sit well with me.
It is commonly served boiled. It can also be sliced thin and made into chips.
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