To find out what to eat in Ecuador you need to keep in mind that the gastronomy of this country is very varied. Food and drink preparation will vary according to the region you are travelling in. There are four main regions: the coast, the mountains, the east and the inland region. Each of these has its own customs and traditions.
In general, Ecuadorean gastronomy contains the following basic ingredients: rice, egg, potatoes, avocado and beef or pork. In the coastal area there is of course produce from the sea.
Nonetheless, the best known traditional dishes are: the ceviche, the fanesca (a soup), the sancocho de pescado (fish soup), and the churrasco (grilled meat). Fruits take centre stage in the more tropical areas: guanábana (soursop), granadilla (passion fruit), pitahaya (dragon fruit), papaya, lulo (a citrus fruit), etc. But we can find out more about Ecuadorean gastronomy through the traditional dishes.
This dish is known globally. Its main ingredient is raw seafood. In Ecuador, as in Colombia, the prawn ceviche is the star. It is prepared by marinating the prawns in lemon and lime juice, and includes onions, tomato and salt. It is served accompanied by fried plantain, garlic and chifles (thin slices of ripe fried plantain).
Meat is another essential ingredient of Ecuadorean cuisine. Along the whole coast, particularly in Guayaquil, churrasco meat is prepared on a griddle. The Ecuadorean churrasco consists of a piece of beef which is cooked on a griddle or directly over the flames. It is seasoned with chimichurri sauce and served with rice, fried potatoes, salad, avocado and garlic.
It should be clarified that the Cuy is a small edible rodent from Latin America. Its meat contains much protein and little fat. It is served both fried and roasted accompanied by potatoes, milled maize and salad. If you are not keen on trying it, you could think of it as hare or another type of game animal.
Encocado de Camarones (shrimp stew)
The recipe for encocado de Camarones consists of marinating the shrimp in lemon and spices. Once marinated, they are cooked in a sauce of coriander, onion, tomatoes, coconut milk and peppers. As you can imagine, they acquire an exquisite flavour. They are served with rice.
La Fritada (fried pork)
If you like pork, you will love the fritada. The pork is cooked with hot spices and then fried in its own fat. It is served accompanied by potatoes, maize, sweet, plantain slices, cucumber, onion and tomato. It is an explosion of flavours for the most demanding palates.
If the fritada is fried pork, the hornado is the roast version. The pork is served with potato cakes, choclo maduro (corn cobs) and avocado. This dish is typical of the mountain region of Ecuador.
Maito de Pescado (fish wrapped in leaves)
In the Amazon region of Ecuador the Maito is cooked by wrapping the fish in banana leaves. It is served accompanied by yucca, rice or sliced plantain. It goes without saying that it is a very tasty dish which will delight those who love fish.
Apart from the traditional Ecuadorean dishes, you will also find culinary gems in the street food. Below is a summary of the country’s tastiest and most traditional street food.
In reality, Humitas originated in Peru, but they have spread to other regions. The dish consists of a maize paste which is wrapped and cooked in maize leaves. They are served with eggs, avocado, onions and seasoned with different spices. They can be sweet or savoury.
Green plantains are used to prepare the Bolones. These are crushed and cooked into a paste, and then filled with cheese, pork or chorizo. They are ideal for breakfast accompanied by a fried egg, garlic and a cup of Ecuadorean coffee.
Cevichochos (bean ceviche)
This originally-named dish is vegetarian/vegan. It is prepared from the lupin beans, lemon, salt, onion, tomato sauce, toasted maize and friend plantain. It is a delicious vegan ceviche with an exquisite flavour.
Pan de yuca (Yuca bread)
This bread is made with white cheese, yucca starch, eggs and baking powder. It is traditional along the Ecuadorean coast and can be served for breakfast or for snacks, accompanied by a coffee or tea. It also serves as a starter with other typical Ecuadorean dishes.
Patacones (fried banana)
As in many other Latin American countries, the Patacones (green fried bananas) form an essential part of Ecuadorean gastronomy. They are generally an accompaniment to many other dishes, so much so that one might say that there isn’t a single traditional dish that doesn’t include them.
Salchipapas (sausages and fries)
This is a very popular fast food dish based on fried sausages, fried potatoes and a variety of sauces. It is the perfect thing to stave off hunger when you don’t have the time to stop and eat a fabulous main dish.
You can also accompany these gastronomic delicacies with drinks like the Canelazo (cinnamon drink), the Chicha (fermented beer), the Morocho (maize drink), or the Ponche de Leche (egg and milk drink). Enjoy!