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How to Eat the Costa Rican Way

March 21, 2014
by CEA CAPA Content Creator
As soon as I got the green light to study abroad in San José, one question immediately came to mind first. It wasn’t “How are the classes there?” Or, “How will my new family treat me?” It was “How’s the food?”

I love food a lot – so much so, that if eating could be considered a pastime it would take my number one spot. Trying new foods is so fun to me. Tasting the different bursts of flavors and combinations of spices for the first time gives me a rush.

While here, I’ve had the opportunity to try many typical Costa Rican foods. However, only two stuck out to me the most: Gallo Pinto and Casado.

Gallo Pinto
 Gallo pinto for breakfast!

Literally meaning “spotted rooster,” this dish consisting of rice and beans is usually eaten for breakfast. Gallo pinto received its name because of the color of the rice after the meal is cooked. When the black or red beans and rice are combined, the rice becomes colored by the beans, giving off a speckled look. It is a very
simple meal to make, only requiring the cook to pre-cook the rice and beans the day before so that it doesn’t end up mushed in a ball after cooking it together. Most Ticos add onions, peppers and cilantro to add flavor. It is also sometimes served with both eggs and toast, but my Tica family eats it either by itself or with buttered toast. This is one of my favorites because it’s so simple yet filling. The best Gallo pinto I’ve had was while I was visiting Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. In their Gallo Pinto, they always use leche de coco (coconut milk) when making it, which added a sweet touch to the already strong flavor of the dish. YUM.

 Casado con pollo a la plancha

Casado, which means “married” in Spanish, is made up of a marriage of different things. It is usually eaten for lunch (and sometimes dinner) and includes rice, black beans, salad, vegetables, and a type of meat. I’ve had casado that also included either mashed potatoes, plantains, or a tortilla. For the meat portion of the casado, most menus in a soda (a small family-run restaurant, which is very common here) or any restaurant for that matter, offer a variety of meats. There’s casado con pollo a la plancha (grilled chicken), bistec (steak), pescado (fish) and carne (beef). My favorite is casado con pollo a la plancha. The chicken is usually grilled to perfection and eating it with the rice and beans, followed by the salad and vegetables makes the entire meal that more amazing. I love that this dish has many options and allows you to taste different flavors in one sitting. After eating the casado, if you eat the plantains last, it gives you a super sweet ending to a delicious meal.

If you visit or study abroad in Costa Rica, I recommend that you eat both Gallo Pinto and Casado. If you don’t, well, you won’t experience an important part of the Tico lifestyle.

¡Pura Vida!

Leslie Brown is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in San José, Costa Rica. She is currently a junior at Winthrop University.

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