QUITO AND ITS FOOD, A GASTRONOMIC ROUTE
Quito is a wonderful place to eat… excellent products, great cooks, unique recipes, tons to discover and savour…
Lunch-time (or almuerzo) is sacred in a Quiteño’s home, and one plate is simply not enough. If you didn’t start with a good succulent soup and later follow it with a main course (preferably with rice or potatoes) it just isn’t lunch, and lunch is what, in Quito, gets you through the day. Whether you stop at an improvised stand, a humble dive, a restaurant or have an Ecuadorian homemade meal, the following traditional flavors are sure to pop up (and certainly leave you craving more).
SPECIAL QUITO DISHES
Locro de papa
The classic locro de papas of the Ecuadorian Andes is a must in your culinary checklist. A thick and simple soup where the potato is its star ingredient is definitely a Quiteño and foreigner favorite. And the fresh cheese and avocado slices that come with it only make the taste better (and the experience more unique)!
Made from the endemic naranjilla, cinnamon and local gut-rot liquor (puntas), the Canelazo is imbibed in epic quantities during the city’s foundation festivities (the first week of December), either on the street or aboard a chiva bus.
Although it isn’t a Quito staple, since the ingredients (seafood mainly) come from the Coast, you can find a mouthwatering ceviche anywhere you go. Order a shrimp, fish, crab or oyster ceviche and you will not be disappointed (it is even said to be the perfect cure for a hangover).
A half moon shaped turnover common to most of Latin America but prepared differently in Quito; enjoy at the dinner table or a crowded stadium filled with passionate fútbol fans:
De Viento (wind empanadas) – dough: flour and cheese. Filling: the wind
De Morocho– dough: maize. Filling: meat, rice and green peas
De Mejido– dough: flour. Filling: cheese, raisins, sugar.
De Verde– dough: Mashed green plantain. Filling: cheese, shrimp or meat
Blend tomatoes in lemon, mix with chopped cilantro, cubed tomatoes, onion strips, vegetable oil and add chochos… simple, delicious, healthy and energetic… you find this great munchies-quencher in parks throughout the city.
Higos con queso
Figs are soaked in water for a day and then cooked for 15 minutes until tender. Then, panela (unrefined brown sugar) is cooked until it becomes syrupy and the figs are added. You’ll find this delicacy in cafés, even bakeries, served with slices of fresh Andean cheese!
Helados de paila
There is no match for the simplicity and delight of this traditional ice cream. Its secret: the bronze cauldron that spins endlessly on ice and grains of salt, made with natural flavors of fruit pulp.
The pungent and unmistakable aroma of the tripa mishki (sweet tripe) can literally stop Quiteño traffic. The dish – epic BBQ-tripe macerated in garlic, achiote, cumin, seasoned on-site on the street, and ready to eat after ten minutes over hot coals – gloriously sets the stage for Quito’s street fare.
Cuy (the guinea pig)
A sacred creature to ancient inhabitants, the guinea pig not only goes in the pot to celebrate special occasions, it is also used live in healing rituals. In homes, it is boiled in soups, but most non-local Ecuadorians today find it much less appetizing than the crispy fried version.
Choclo and habas con queso
Corn and cheese, or fava beans and cheese are great appetizers before the main dish (be it hornado, fritada, or any other typical dish)
Anything that has to do with pork in Quito takes hours of preparation…
Fritada: Pork morcels deep-fried in pork fat (known as mapahuira) creates a delectable dish.
Hornado: To try the best hornado (an entire pork baked for 12 hours). The cooked pig is displayed with an apple in its mouth, but despite the unpleasant vision, it’s a delicacy in these parts! Best place to try: Sangolquí, in the southern outskirts of Quito.
Chicharrón: No matter the hour or the place you can’t say no to a good chicharrón or pork scrappings, and hominy (mote)! Try at: Motes de San Juan, the Serafina food truck at La Platea in La Floresta.
Staple Quito sauces to accompany your dishes
All Quito dishes come with one (or several) sauce(s) to top them with. We advise you to add agrio (made with tomato, onion, orange juice, vinegar and brown sugar) to accompany your pork dishes, or the homemade ají (and the especial peanut-based variety) over everything else!
A delicious and healthy snack to boost your energy, lupin beans and tostado.
Colaciones (White round sugar balls with a peanut inside)
Caca de perro (Dog poo in English, a sweet snack made with roasted corn)
Higos confitados (candied figs)
Maní confitado (candied peanuts)
Llapingachos (a grilled potato tortilla with cheese inside)
Maduro frito (fried plantain)
Choclo frito (fried corn)
Ecuadorians were “juicing” way before the advent of the smoothie that went along with the world’s hype for health food. With all the fruit options available in the country, it only makes sense that its juices be offered at the table along with every meal, in street shops, improvised stands and even in parks ready to refresh a jogger or biker’s thirst.
A sweet corn delicacy wrapped in corn leaf, similar to a tamale in look, but the humitas are native to the highlands. And they go great with a Quiteño coffee!