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Costa Rica

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Eating like a Tico

The food in Costa Rica is like nothing you would find in the United States, or at least in the Midwest. As a food science major, food is always a great way for me to relate to people and to understand more of the culture and history of a country. Here in Costa Rica, rice and beans are a huge part of the diet, and the fruits are incredibly exotic.

Casado is a dish that is a “marriage” of rice and beans, a protein, a small salad and some fried plantains and is seen at many restaurants and sodas, or small family or roadside restaurants, all over the country.

 Casado, a common Tico dish

My Mama Tica has cooked this for us a few times, but more often serves gallo pinto, which is a rice and beans side dish. The main difference between gallo pinto and casado is how they are cooked, as the rice and beans are cooked together in gallo pinto and are very rich and delicious.  We often eat gallo pinto at breakfast with eggs, fruit and toast.
 Gallo pinto, another delicious Tico staple

If you’re a fan of seafood, be sure to visit a beach town such as Puerto Viejo and order some; most of the sodas catch the fish fresh daily! I got ceviche, or fresh fish soaked in citrus juices, when I was in Puerto Viejo last weekend and it was incredible!
 Fresh ceviche at a soda in Puerto Viejo

One of my favorite parts about the Costa Rican food is the amount of fruit that is available to eat. My Mama Tica serves us many different types of fruit and fruit juice at breakfast, and it’s always fun to try to guess what type of fruit it is.

 

Earlier in the week, I had noticed a poster at the CEA San José office showing the pictures of all the fruits and the names in Spanish and English. My roommates and I made it our mission to try all the different fruits on the poster. So far we aren’t doing too bad, thanks to all the fruterías in San Jose. I’m definitely most excited to try the ice cream bean, which supposedly taste quite similar!

 The fruit poster at the CEA San José office

On the way to Puerto Viejo, we also stopped at a roadside fruit market, and it had some of the most exotic fruits I have ever seen! My favorite was mamoncillo, or rambutan in English. It’s a spikey red shell on the outside, and a sweet, white-ish fruit on the inside.  The variety of bananas is also crazy, and the fingerling bananas were so sweet! Another tasty fruit is jacote, which is green on the outside and bright orange on the inside. It’s delicious even when unripe, as you can just eat the rind and a little bit of the fruit.
 The rind and inside of a mamoncillo
 
 The roadside frutería on the way to Puerto Viejo
 
 All of the jacotes at the roadside market

My next stop is to find and explore the farmer’s markets and Mercado Central in San José to try more of the fruits on my list - wish me luck!

Kathryn Moorhead is a Summer 2013 Seville, Spain alumna, CEA Alumni Ambassador at Iowa State University, and a Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in San José, Costa Rica.  



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