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Because of its physical and cultural diversity, Ecuador is blessed with a wide range of fruits, vegetables and edible creatures. The Andes are the birthplace of the potato, for example, and several hundred species are grown here. The Incas knew ways of treating potatoes so that they could be stored for many years. They valued the potato not only as nourishment, but as a unit of time measure, the unit being the length of time it took to cook one.

As for tropical fruits, you will see and taste delicious varieties you never knew existed. The various forms of passion fruits, melons, mangoes, papayas, pomegranates, kiwis, kumquats, custard apples, bananas, guavas, and tamarinds number in the thousands. The favorite berry-sized tomato known as
tomate del arbol [tree tomato] which makes a delicious fresh fruit drink. Another unusual fruit is a babaco, which looks something like a papaya but tastes more like a pineapple. Naranjilla, a greenish orange type fruit, also makes wonderful juice [jugo], as so maracuya, taxo, the white guanabana juice and mora [blackberries].

Before the Spanish introduced cattle, the favored meat in Ecuador was guinea pig, or
cuy. It's still an Ecuadorian delicacy. Whole grilled guinea pigs [teeth bared, eyes closed and paws intact] are said to be tasty and sweet - something like a cross between a chicken and a rabbit. Ecuadorians enjoy discussing the best places to eat cuy. Some say Latacunga while others favor the cuy from Ambato or Banos.

More acceptable to European and American palates are some of the great soups of the highlands. Locro de papas, usually known simply as
locro, a thick potato and cheese soup, is delicious and requires no culinary courage to consume. Yahuarlocro, a potato soup made with blood sausage, avocados and onions, is equally tasty. Fanesca, rich soup made with fish, eggs, beans and grains, is traditionally eaten during Holy Week.

Another sierra favourite among Ecuadorians and foreigners is llapingachos, potato pancakes or patties made with cheese and onions. And for a quick snack, empanadas, wheat flour pasties stuffed with cheese or meat, are filling and appetizing and can be bought inexpensively at a
panaderia [bakery]. Empanadas de morocho [corn meal empanadas], usually filled with meat. The most typical mountain cooking is fried pork and roast pork - fritada and hornado. If you are really hungry, order a chugchucaras, a specialty of Latacunga, which is a big plate of fried pork with mote [corn], bananas, fried potato pancakes, popcorn and pork skin with a couple of eggs on top.

With its abundance of seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, the best cuisine in Ecuador is found on the coast. The greatest glory of the coastal cuisine is ceviche, which is fresh fish or shellfish marinated using various recipes combining lime or lemon, chili, onions, coriander [
cilantro] and perhaps other spices. Though the best ceviche comes from the coast, from Manabi Province in particular, it is popular throughout the country and indeed along the length of the Pacific coastline of South America.

Ceviche can be made from fish, shrimp, lobster, clams, mussels, oysters or mixtures of all of these. If you like Japanese sushi and prawn cocktails you are sure to enjoy ceviche. But it should be said that some people avoid cevichebecause it is believed that it sometimes carries cholera bacteria. If you are concerned, avoid ceviche de pescado [fish] and ceviche de concha [
clam] which are not even lightly cooked before marinating. Stick with ceviche de camaron [shrimp] and clean looking establishments.

Even if you avoid ceviche altogether there are still plenty of great seafood dishes to enjoy on the coast. Try
viche, for examples [not to be confused with ceviche], a soup of fish, crab, crawfish, conch and calamares with peanut and banana. Similarly, cazuela is a mixed seafood stew made with peanut sauce and green cooking bananas [verdes] served in clay pot. A very thick cazuela can also be made into a flan-type pie, a real delicacy.

Esmeraldas Province is known for its encocado [
made with coconut] dishes. Yo can have encocado de pescado [fish], encocado de camaron [shrimp], encocado de jaiba [blue crab] and the supreme encocado de cangrejo [blue mangrove crab, found only in Esmeraldas]. Another coastal specialty is encebollado, a hearty tuna soup eaten for breakfast; it's said alleviate hangovers.

All Ecuadorian meals are served with a small side dish of hot sauce [
salsa picante] made in various ways with chili peppers [aji]. The spiciness of the sauce varies from place to place, so proceed with caution.

Typical alcoholic Ecuadorian drinks include various fruit concoctions made with a powerful sugar cane spirit [
trago] as a base. A popular one is canelazos, which is a hot cocktail of trago, mixed with cinnamon, sugar and lime. Pilsener and Club [both good] are the national beers, while the most popular bottled mineral water is Guitig.

Unfortunately for a country which produces it, coffee is not well prepared in Ecuador, the most popular form being a concentrated liquid called
esencia, to which hot water or milk is added. You can get proper coffee in some of the better hotels and a few coffee shops in the cities.
|please see our list of the best ecuadorian food restaurants||
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