(47) Panama – Sancocho

Hello from the isthmus that connects South and Central America- Panama! This country gives you the unique opportunity to watch the sunrise over the Pacific and sunset over the Atlantic. Panama City the capital of Panama (pictured below) is the only city in the world that has a rain forest within city limits. The famous Panama canal generates one third of the countries economy and roughly 14,000 ships travel through each year. The toll each ship pays is dependent on their size, the larger ships paying almost half a million dollars- ouch!

Panama City Beach. Source: Fishingbooker.com

Typical cuisine in Panama is comprised of African, Native American, and Spanish methods. Due to the location of Panama it has access to several varieties of produce, yucca (cassava root) and plantains being the most commonly used.

Today we made a traditional soup filled with various veggies and chicken. Sancocho is a common Latin soup that is full of native flavors and was fairly easy to make. It contained yucca which was a new food for us to try. Yucca is very starchy and has a thick skin that is best peeled off similar to if you were preparing a plantain. Depending on where you are this recipe could vary. It is also said this soup can cure hangovers.. we have not tested this theory, but maybe you could let us know if it is true? 😉

Like most soups once you had the ingredients prepped it just needed time to cook and allow for the flavors to merge together. We loved the use of cilantro in the soup and like many other meals felt it brightened it up. The yucca and plantain were alike in flavor, closely resembling russet potatoes, however yucca had a slight squash-like similarity while the plantain had a mild sweetness. We thought there wasn’t enough balance between the starchy foods and other ingredients and decided to rate it 6.5/10.

Next, we visit a country I have never heard of before over and recently gained its independence in 1999. Tune in tomorrow to find out how it went!

(21) Costa Rica – Carne en Salsa with Gallo Pinto

To close out the week we are in Costa Rica! I decided to make two dishes that are very popular in the Costa Rican diet. Costa Rica is found in Central America and is known as the hummingbird capital with over 50 species native to the region. It is full of spectacular nature, an overwhelming amount of insects, and active volcanos. This country has it all- amazing views and food!

Nauyaca Waterfalls of Costa Rica. Source: Pinterest

The first portion of this meal is carne en salsa – a shredded beef dish that soaks up a flavorful red sauce. The finely shredded beef is very versatile and could be used for tacos, tamales, sandwiches or even nachos! I was able to find the highly recommended Salsa Lizano on Etsy which helped give the meat and rice a wonderfully sweet and smoky flavor. This sauce has been a Costa Rican staple for over 100 years!

The recipe I used for the lovely carne en salsa can be found here. This blog also has a separate link for the preparation prior to the shredding. If you don’t have an Instant Pot I would recommend slow cooking the beef for 6-8 hours or until it easily shreds.

For the second part of this dish I decided to make the national dish of Costa Rica- Gallo Pinto. Gallo pinto translates to spotted rooster and was likely given this name due to its contrasting appearance. Nicaragua also claims this dish as its own, however it is controversial.

I used this recipe which was very easy to follow. It required 1/2 of cup of the locally made sauce, but have no fear Worchester sauce is a good substitute. This paired well with the beef and once again seemed like a dish that could be used for many different meals. In Costa Rica it’s commonly served up with eggs for breakfast.

Additionally I fried up some plantains which brought a wonderful crunch to the dish. This meal was well balanced and honestly one of my favorites! It was pretty straight forward to prepare and not too time consuming. Another bonus is how each element could be used in various dishes or stand out alone.

We could not recommend this meal more and gave it an 8.5/10 rating (definitely suggest frying some green plantains as well). Next on the menu is Guyana 😊

(2) Guatemala – Pepián de Pollo

Hello- or should I say hola! Today I bring you to Guatemala, the land of many trees (actual translation). Did you know there are 25 spoken languages used today in Guatemala? There are many indigenous Mayan communities that make up the country, most of which speak their own language. The national dish in this beautiful country is called pepián. This meal consists of pollo (chicken) covered in recado (a thick, flavorful sauce). When researching I found the sauce can be made thinner and served as a stew with additional vegetables. Traditionally this dish is made for special occasions and holidays, but I think we can all appreciate a special meal right about now?

Antigua, Guatemala © SL Photography / Getty Images

Pepián is a wonderful fusion of the new and old world, full of flavor and attitude. It is said to date way back before European settlers arrived. The natives would often make this dish during political, religious, or special rituals. Over time this dish was adapted by all and embraced as the national dish. Over time the meal has grown with Spanish influence.

Yes that is an English muffin.. I improvised. I also substituted dehydrated ancho poblano peppers

I had fun preparing this meal and enjoyed putting new flavors together that I would have never thought of before. I can honestly say neither one of us has had something like this! The recipe I used can be found here along with a cool video of a Guatemalan making the dish while teaching the bloggers of The Uncornered Market. I made the recommended rice pilaf to go with the pepián.

We appreciated the balance of spice, smoky, and almost bitter flavors that evolved overtime on our taste buds. Some bites you could taste the cinnamon more and others the chili or pumpkin seeds. Ian thought the sauce would taste nice on meat balls (if we try this I’ll let you know how it goes! We rated this dish 6.5/10. What I would change if I made it again would be thinning the sauce by adding more broth. Coming up next we travel West to Lesotho!