To talk about what to eat in Panama, we must first take into account the ethnic and cultural melting pot of the country. The Hispanic culture, along with the African, the Amerindian, and the Afro-Antillean, is the source from which Panamanian cuisine is derived.
In the gastronomy of Panama, you will discover that rice is the basis of many of its typical dishes. Other ingredients used are corn and plantain, as well as meat, fish, and seafood depending on the geographical area you visit. Other typical Panamanian foods are roots and tubers, such as yam, otoe, ñampí, cassava and potato.
With all those ingredients, they prepare some very tasty typical dishes which you have to eat in Panama. Then, you will know the most emblematic dishes of Panamanian cuisine and its ingredients.
As we already anticipated, rice is the main ingredient of the cuisine of Panama, and one of its culinary expressions is the guacho. During your trip, one of the typical dishes to eat in Panama is this dish based on rice and green beans, cooked in a thick soup of vegetables, meat, yucca, yams and coriander.
Rice with Pigeonpea
The difference between this dish and the previous one is that it is based on white rice with coconut. There are two ways to prepare it, either add the fresh pigeonpea (bean stick) or fry it with garlic and onions before adding the rice. This touch of coconut makes it differentiate from the guacho for its flavour.
Other rice dishes typical of Panama are rice with seafood, rice with chorizo and chili, rice with pork and vegetables and the famous fututiao rice (rice prepared with onion, garlic, coriander, salt, pepper, chili and bacon).
Another typical dish to eat in Panama and many other countries in Latin America, is the sancocho. This dish consists of a very seasoned vegetable soup, to which different types of meat and tubers are added.
Other popular soups of Panama's cuisine are beef soup, beef leg soup, bean soup and seafood soup.
This typical Panamanian dish is a seafood soup whose origin is Anglo Afro-Antillean. To prepare the dish, a seafood or fish soup is cooked with vegetables and tubers, to which spices, sweet peppers, green bananas and coconut milk are added. A delicacy which you must try during your trip.
Lovers of pork cannot fail to try this typical dish of Panamanian cuisine. The saus consists of a plate of pickled pork legs with spicy sauce. Its origin comes from Afro-Antillean tradition and you can try it mainly during the festivals of Bocas de Toro and Portobelo.
Mondongo a la Culona
With this bizarre name, Panamanians baptise a culinary invention, which is a mixture of flavours with an exceptional result. Prepare a broth with beef tripe, chorizo, onions, chilli, coriander, garlic, tomatoes, peas and carrots. It is seasoned with salt and pepper and served with white rice.
As in other regions of Latin America, tamales are also prepared in Panama. To make the Panamanian tamales chicken, corn, tomatoes, capers, onions, coriander, peppers and banana leaves or Bijao are used. Its flavour is slightly reminiscent of Mexican tamales because of its spice.
To prepare patacones, green plantain is used, which is flattened and fried, giving rise to a kind of delicious fried banana pancake. In other Latin American countries they are known as tostones, tajada or tachinos.
It is the turn of the devotees of fish and seafood with one of the tastiest typical dishes of Panama: ceviche. Its flavour is sweet and sour at the same time, and to make them, Panamanians marinate fish and seafood with lime. Panamanian ceviche is served with cookies or fried bananas.
We continue with the fish, this time to prepare delicious fried cobo fillet, a dish to eat in Panama, as soon as you arrive in the country. To make this dish, small pieces of cobo fillet marinated with pepper, salt and lemon are used. Before tossing them into the pan, they are spread with a mixture of eggs, corn flour, ground biscuit, bread crumbs, and wheat flour. They are served with hot sauce or lemon.
To finish, we go to the desserts, with varieties as suggestive as Bocados de la Reina, Suspiros Panameños, Bienmesabe, Marshmallow, Mazamorra, and many more besides. The variety of desserts in Panama is almost endless, so we would have to help it down with a typical drink like Chicheme (fermented corn) or palm wine to digest everything.
And up to this culinary trip for the best of Panama, prepare your taste buds and dare to try gastronomy in which fusion is the norm.