(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!

(40) Venezuela – Pabellón Criollo

Hey guys- today we are in VENEZUELA! You already know it’s going to be good. Venezuela is situated on the Northern coast of South America neighboring Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Colombia. It is considered to be a megadiverse country with several species calling Venezuela their one and only home. Also found here is the world’s largest waterfall, Angel Falls which measures at a staggering 3,212ft total height!

Angel Falls. Source: Australian Geographic Luis Carillo/wikimedia.org

Venezuelan cuisine is influenced by West Africa, Europe, and Native Americans. Their dishes can often contain yams, plantains, corn, beans, and of course meat! The dish I made for Venezuela is called Pabellón Criollo. It consists of four separate dishes: shredded beef, garlic rice, plantains, and the most amazing black beans you’ve ever had. If you don’t know by now I have quite the plantain obsession and I hope you will grow to have one too!!

The history of this country’s national dish is not set in stone, however it is thought to represent the ethnic groups that populated Venezuela in the colonial area- shredded beef and plantains represent the indigenous people, white rice represents the European (Spanish) settlers, and black beans the Africans that were brought over with the Spanish. Another interpretation is that the colors represent the country’s flag.

I used this recipe which was easy to follow even with several elements cooking at the same time. I had prepped veggies while the meat was cooking which saved time later on. The rice I saved for later so it wouldn’t get cold. Plantains are always since they are a fried food and would not taste as good reheated.

We loved this dish! It was very savory, the beans especially standing out with rich flavor. I think I would have liked the shredded beef cooking in a sauce versus beef juices, however it was still very good. All the flavors went well together and the plantains brought a nice crunchy texture to the dish.

We rated the dish 7.5/10. Let us know what you think and drop a comment below!

(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 😊

(13) Cuba -Ropa Vieja

Hello! Today we are in Cuba and will be taking a shot at another national dish. Cuba is home to passionate son music, cigars, and classic cars. These cars can be found all over the country, especially in Havana and are a popular tourist attraction. There are two reasons why classic cars dominate the country- one being the cars and parts ban from 1959-2016 from any foreign country or US; second being the cost of buying new cars is not affordable for most citizens. Since the ban Cubans had to become crafty with their car upkeep and often painted their cars bright colors to hide panel and body work.

Classic cars in Havana, Cuba. Source: Kim.kim.com

Ropa Vieja, the national dish of Cuba, is also popular throughout the Caribbean. This meal consists of slow cooked beef in a slightly spicy, tomato based sauce. This dish originated in the Canary Islands of Spain and with colonization brought Spanish influence to Cuba. Unfortunately with the beef restrictions in Cuba, it is not cooked as often as it once did.

The Roasted Root had a great recipe that allowed me to break out my Instant Pot again (slow cooker works as well). I love me some plantains and was happy to fry some up to accompany the beef. We loved the meal and thought it was very satisfying with all the different elements working well together. The cabbage especially brought a beautiful pop of color to the dish.

We rated this dish 7.25/10 between the two of us, the meat being the stand out aspect of the dish. Come back in a few days for a classic comfort food from Bangladesh.