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Costa Rica Food: Tienes hambre? (Hungry?)

The Staples of Costa Rica Food: Rice and Beans

It wouldn't be Costa Rica food if your meal didn't come with riceand beans, usually black beans. Costa Rica natives have rice andbeans for breakfast, at which time they call the duo "Gallo Pinto,"as well as for lunch and dinner. Gallo Pinto is often cooked inonions and peppers and come with sour cream and corn tortillas. Addeggs and people will call it "a la Ranchera." The Caribbean styleof gallo pinto is cooked in coconut milk.

Lunch is usually referred to as "El Casado," or simply casado,which translates to "married," and nicked from the packed lunchesthat wives prepare for their husbands. Casado is still made of riceand beans, but come with a meat dish, shredded cabbage and tomatosalad, and fried plantains, which are a starchy kind of banana.

Almuerzo (lunch) is the most important meal of the day in CostaRica, and usually the biggest. Ticos always have heavily fried foodto go with their rice and beans. The meat dishes that accompany thecasado ? usually chicken, fish or beef ? are all prepared fried insaturated fats. Luckily for ticos, servings are smaller than USportions, and the rice and beans quickly fill up one'stummy.

Popular Costa Rica Food Dishes

Rice can still be served without beans in Costa Rica, usually friedwith chicken or shrimp and called Arroz. Arroz con Pollo, or ricewith chicken, is considered a specialty Costa Rica food, preparedfor parties and served with ground beans, potato chips and Russiansalad, or Ensalada Rusa, which are sliced beets in mayonnaise.

A favorite stew is Olla de Carne, made primarily of big chunks ofbeef, potatoes, chayote or vegetable pear, pumpkins, cauliflowerand corn. Another popular beef dish is Sopa de Mondongo, or beefstomach soup, which is made up of tripe and vegetables. Beef makesup a very large percentage of Costa Rica food and is popular in thecasado. In contrast, although Costa Rica has two coastlines,seafood is scarce and very expensive because they are all meant forexport.

Another staple in Costa Rica food is the plantain, which is alsoeaten on its own as a fried, therefore crunchy, snack. Although itlooks and tastes just like a banana, it can only be eaten after itis cooked, either fried or baked, served with white cheese or plainsugar. It can also be served fried, mashed and salty.

Otras Frutas y Verduras (Other fruit and vegetables)

The plantain is not the only fruit you can find in Costa Rica,there are guavas, soursop, blackberries, watermelons, papayas,mangoes, passion fruit, star fruit, avocados, cantaloupe melons andpineapples. Green coconuts are enjoyed as a drink, while pejibaye,a relative of the coconut, tastes more like chestnuts and is firstboiled in salt water. You can find pejibayes ready-to-eat on thecity streets of Costa Rica.

Corn is a staple vegetable in Costa Rica, being the main ingredientin tortillas, tamales and the pastry for the empanada, which arepockets of beans, potatoes and/or meat. Corn is also availableboiled or roasted on a grill.

Other vegetables are not a traditional Costa Rica food, butyoungsters exposed to American healthy menus and lifestyles havebeen reintroducing salads and vegetables into their diet. Atraditional Tico salad, however, is the Picadillo, which areusually chopped up chayote or vegetable pear, string beans andpotatoes.

Where to Eat: Sodas et al

All the Costa Rica food that has been mentioned so far can usuallybe found in a soda, which is a typical diner in Costa Rica. Sodasusually serve these home cooked meals, which are the most authenticof Costa Rican fare. It is observed however that there may be justas many American-style fast food restaurants in Costa Rica, if notmore.

Bars in Costa Rica are popular for serving their drinks with Bocas,which are small dishes of crunchies. One of the popular bocas areusually tortillas with beef and/or chicken, cheese and beans,called Gallos, with variations such as Gallos de Salchichon, whichhas sausage, and Chifrijo, which are toasted tortillas with beansand avocado. Other bocas include tamales steamed in banana leaves,fried plantains, and a seafood salad they call ceviche.

Once upon a time, bocas were free everywhere, but more and morebars are beginning to either lose the custom or charge anadditional fee for them, although quite a minimal one. Of course,the locals would be happy to direct you to a bar that still servesyou a small plate of free food with your drink, so don't be afraidto ask around.

Tomatela: Drink Up!

There are many good beers in Costa Rica, owing to the strong Germaninfluence in the country. If you'd like to try a more nativeliquor, guaro is fermented from sugar cane and is an experience initself.

Fruit shakes, or refrescos, are very popular in Costa Rica,especially blackberry shakes and star fruit juice. If you'relooking for a traditional Costa Rica beverage, you might bethrilled to discover Horchata, a popular drink which is madebasically either of cornmeal or rice flour, and flavored withcinnamon.

Be wary when you're offered Chan, a slimy drink made of Guacanasteseeds that's usually an acquired taste more than anything else.Agua Dulce is made of melted sugar cane, served at breakfast. Andunfortunately, coffeeis not as good as one might expect in Costa Rica; the best beansare reserved for export.

Sweet Costa Rica Foods: Postres! (Desserts)

The most beloved of Costa Rica desserts, and even perhaps of CostaRica food in general, is Tres Leches, a sumptuous three-layer cakesubmerged in condensed, evaporated and full cream milk. Some evencall it the National dessert.

Other sweets include Flan de Caramelo or caramel custard, and itscoconut counterpart, Flan de Coco. Tapa Dulce is Costa Rica brownsugar served in blocks, and it can be found in Cajeta de Coco,another delicious candy ? essentially a fudge with tapa dulce,coconut and orange peel.

Back to Costa RicaVacations Guide from Costa Rica food.

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