It’s no surprise…at all…that we love food. Any and every chance we get, we channel our inner gluttonous selves in search of some ‘omg you’d die and go to heaven if you eat this’ cuisine.
And honestly. At this time of year? We’re hedging our bets that most of you are thinking about food, too. Eating it. Preparing it. Slipping into a happy coma with it. So we figured, why not just share with you, our friends, what and where some of our fave foods are? One of the best things about traveling is eating – especially testing out local dishes. Why? Simply put, really – it gets to the heart and soul of the culture of the place you find yourself in. And we’re all about that. Sometimes it’s one of the bravest things you can do as a traveler, to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. But if you’ve done it, even once, then you know it can be life-changing. You might wistfully find yourself dreaming about those tamales from Costa Rica during the holiday season. Or wishing you had some pure flaked sea salt directly from Iceland. Well – here’s to transporting your taste buds – and maybe, just maybe…scratching that travel itch in the New Year.
Ok, you ready? Here we go.
#5) Sancocho, Panama
Its chicken soup for the soul. With a twist. A Panamanian twist, in this case. Sancocho can be found in several Latin American countries. But it’s known as the national dish of Panama, and it’s basically a warm hug in a bowl. It’s pretty much a staple for all meals. Chicken, root veggies, corn on the cob? All good things. And if you’re not into spicy food, you’re in luck. While there is a TON of flavor in this dish that can be introduced by many things, the spicy-on-your-tongue factor isn’t one of them. The secret ingredient here? CULantro. Not a typo. In the same family as cilantro, with similar aromas and flavors, but culantro is an entirely different plant. And the locals believe, 100%, that it’s the key to the best Sancocho around.
#4) Ceviche, Galapagos Islands
You’ve no doubt heard of ceviche. Probably even tried it once or twice. And if you haven’t? Stop what you’re doing right now and go find a spot that can dish up some for you. And we know that ceviche isn’t everybody’s jam. Though you’re wrong about that. Sorry/not sorry. A simple explanation of ceviche? Well, take any type of fish or shellfish – and rather than throwing it in a pan or on the grill to cook, you toss it with herbs, acid (like lime juice) and seasonings, which then “cooks” the fish by way of the marinade breaking it down until ready to eat. The final product – not raw, like sushi – is scrumptious, addictive, and uber refreshing on a hot day. So why the Galapagos? Well…islands. Islands have a literal smorgasbord of seafood to choose from when concocting ceviche. And the Galapagos Islands do it all. Whitefish, octopus, lobster, crab – you name it. The Galapagos gets much of their gastronomical influence from the coast of Ecuador, no surprise. As such, the fan favorite for ceviche is the classic shrimp. And we swear, we could eat 20 portions of it in one sitting. It’s THAT good.
#3) Empanadas, Ecuador
Ok – we had a really hard time not pushing these empanadas up to the #1 spot. I mean. Melty cheese. Fried deliciousness. They’re stupidly delicious and utterly addicting. Empanadas can be found in lots of countries, and each does them differently. The choice of fillings alone can leave you begging for more. Savory empanadas can be stuffed with pork, chorizo, chicken and more – while sweet empanadas offer fruit fillings, dulche de leche…you name it, and it can be made into an empanada. But we like the simple things in life, so we stuck with plain ol’ gooey cheese. In Ecuador, these are called Empanadas de Viento – or wind – because while they’re sadly not stuffed to the brim with cheese, they’re actually left quite airy and fluffy. So, when you bite into it, after the crunch and before the tingle of melted deliciousness, you get a little bit of “whoosh” in your mouth. We’re not sad about it. We’re just sad we’re not stuffing our faces with them at this very moment.
#2) Volcano Bread, Iceland
We don’t know whose idea it was to one day bake bread in the ground, but someone please find that person and thank them. Yeah. Re-read part of that sentence. This Icelandic bread is baked IN THE GROUND. How? Well. Iceland is basically a bank of geothermal energy. So about 100 years ago, Icelandic people discovered that the geothermal fields of water, as hot as 300 degrees Fahrenheit, could also double as an oven. Who knew? And the result from this discovery, among other things, is this tasty rye bread – also called volcano bread, lava bread, or hot spring bread. The ingredients, once mixed, are placed into a metal container, sealed, placed in the ground, and baked for 24 hours. As much as we love cheese, we also love bread – and points to ingenuity for Iceland with this one.
#1) Patacones, Costa Rica
Ahhhh. The pièce de ré·sis·tance. The lovely and admirable Patacones. So, why do they get our #1 vote? Several reasons, the first being – they’re stupidly delicious. But really. So the base here is pretty simple – fried plantain. And again, you can find them in lots of countries. But we found our favorite in Costa Rica. The Ticos just know how to do it right. Between the proper seasoning and perfect frying technique, these little discs of glory will make you never want to leave the country. Part of what we love about them is how versatile they can be. It’s what makes them the perfect vessel. Top it with a dollop of guac? Sure. How about some marinated carne? Mmmkay. Jonesing for a little something sweet? Simply dust them with cinnamon and sugar. Quite literally, Patacones can turn into anything your heart desires. And we’ve said it before – but here it is again. Whip out your camera and get selfie ready. Because if you want to get a little “extra” with these guys, take two of them and use them as the ‘bun’ for a sandwich. Yep. There you go. We just saw your eyes go a little wide. We knew we loved you.
*Almost* as much as we love Patacones.