Although it has yet to become a widespread international delicacy, the food of Ecuador will not leave you unsatisfied. The staples of the region are enhanced with delectable spices and careful preparation. While cuisine does differ by country there is some regional uniformity.
The most common restaurants are small, family-owned local diners, sometimes referred to as comedores. Unequivocally the most economical way to acquire your daily sustenance, and certainly the most popular way to eat out among locals, is the menu del dia
[meal of the day
]. Sometimes referred to as el almuerzo
] during the day or la cena
] at night, this is a set platter at a set price, usually with two courses, a drink, and various extras. If the menu doesn't do the trick, check out the menu for a la carte selections. These usually cost more and provide less nourishment, but sometimes it's worth the extra cash just to choose your own meal.
To diversify your diet you may decide to dine at three other types of restaurant that are both inexpensive and abundant. Chifas
], present in even the smallest of towns, are generally clean and serve scrumptious and filling chaufas
serve seafood, especially ceviche
, a popular dish made from raw seafood marinated in lemon and lime juice [whose acids partly cook the meat
], with cilantro and onion. Pollerias serve scrumptious pollo a la brasa
]. Larger and more touristed cities also offer all the fast food, international food, and vegetarian options you're accustomed to at home.
Breakfast food can be found in most any comedor, though desayuno
] is usually light. Most common are bread, juice, coffee, eggs, and sometimes rice and beans, as well as plantain dishes such as chirriados in certain regions. Well-touristed areas may offer a desayuno americano, which includes a bit more food for the more voracious appetite. If you don't mind a light breakfast [or want a midday snack
], a quick and easy way to grab a bite is to buy fruit at the local mercado
] or visit a panaderia
Juices made from the region's abundant exotic fruits are common and delicious, especially closer to the jungle. Coffee is not as good as it should be, considering that the beans come from the region. It is usually served as esencia
[boiled-down, concentrated grinds mixed with water or milk
]. You might also be served hot water with a can of Nescafe instant coffee. A favorite dairy drink is yogur
, a drinkable combination of milk and yogurt.
If you're looking for something a bit more intoxicating, never fear. South American liquor is cheap and abundant. Many a tasty drink is made from aguardiente, an extremely potent sugarcane alcohol. And then, of course, there's the omnipresent chicha, a liquor made from the yucca plant and fermented with the saliva of the women who brew it. Look for it in houses that fly white or red flags over their doors. Non-alcoholic chichas [also non-saliva
] come in myriad varieties throughout the region, and are occasionally served straight out of a plastic bag.
Unless urgent visits to the nearest restroom are your idea of fun, avoid drinking tap water. Water advertised as purificada
] may have only been passed through a filter, which does not necessarily catch all of those diarrhea-causing demons. Water that has been boiled or treated with iodine is safe to drink; otherwise, bottled water is best. Watch out for refrescos and other water-based juices, and freshly-washed fruit. Also use bottled water when brushing teeth.