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Costa Rica Food: Tienes hambre? (Hungry?)

The Staples of Costa Rica Food: Rice and Beans

It wouldn't be Costa Rica food if your meal didn't come with rice and beans, usually black beans. Costa Rica natives have rice and beans for breakfast, at which time they call the duo "Gallo Pinto," as well as for lunch and dinner. Gallo Pinto is often cooked in onions and peppers and come with sour cream and corn tortillas. Add eggs and people will call it "a la Ranchera." The Caribbean style of gallo pinto is cooked in coconut milk.

Lunch is usually referred to as "El Casado," or simply casado, which translates to "married," and nicked from the packed lunches that wives prepare for their husbands. Casado is still made of rice and beans, but come with a meat dish, shredded cabbage and tomato salad, and fried plantains, which are a starchy kind of banana.

Almuerzo (lunch) is the most important meal of the day in Costa Rica, and usually the biggest. Ticos always have heavily fried food to go with their rice and beans. The meat dishes that accompany the casado ? usually chicken, fish or beef ? are all prepared fried in saturated fats. Luckily for ticos, servings are smaller than US portions, and the rice and beans quickly fill up one's tummy.

Popular Costa Rica Food Dishes

Rice can still be served without beans in Costa Rica, usually fried with chicken or shrimp and called Arroz. Arroz con Pollo, or rice with chicken, is considered a specialty Costa Rica food, prepared for parties and served with ground beans, potato chips and Russian salad, or Ensalada Rusa, which are sliced beets in mayonnaise.

A favorite stew is Olla de Carne, made primarily of big chunks of beef, potatoes, chayote or vegetable pear, pumpkins, cauliflower and corn. Another popular beef dish is Sopa de Mondongo, or beef stomach soup, which is made up of tripe and vegetables. Beef makes up a very large percentage of Costa Rica food and is popular in the casado. In contrast, although Costa Rica has two coastlines, seafood is scarce and very expensive because they are all meant for export.

Another staple in Costa Rica food is the plantain, which is also eaten on its own as a fried, therefore crunchy, snack. Although it looks and tastes just like a banana, it can only be eaten after it is cooked, either fried or baked, served with white cheese or plain sugar. It can also be served fried, mashed and salty.

Otras Frutas y Verduras (Other fruit and vegetables)

The plantain is not the only fruit you can find in Costa Rica, there are guavas, soursop, blackberries, watermelons, papayas, mangoes, passion fruit, star fruit, avocados, cantaloupe melons and pineapples. Green coconuts are enjoyed as a drink, while pejibaye, a relative of the coconut, tastes more like chestnuts and is first boiled in salt water. You can find pejibayes ready-to-eat on the city streets of Costa Rica.

Corn is a staple vegetable in Costa Rica, being the main ingredient in tortillas, tamales and the pastry for the empanada, which are pockets of beans, potatoes and/or meat. Corn is also available boiled or roasted on a grill.

Other vegetables are not a traditional Costa Rica food, but youngsters exposed to American healthy menus and lifestyles have been reintroducing salads and vegetables into their diet. A traditional Tico salad, however, is the Picadillo, which are usually chopped up chayote or vegetable pear, string beans and potatoes.

Where to Eat: Sodas et al

All the Costa Rica food that has been mentioned so far can usually be found in a soda, which is a typical diner in Costa Rica. Sodas usually serve these home cooked meals, which are the most authentic of Costa Rican fare. It is observed however that there may be just as many American-style fast food restaurants in Costa Rica, if not more.

Bars in Costa Rica are popular for serving their drinks with Bocas, which are small dishes of crunchies. One of the popular bocas are usually tortillas with beef and/or chicken, cheese and beans, called Gallos, with variations such as Gallos de Salchichon, which has sausage, and Chifrijo, which are toasted tortillas with beans and avocado. Other bocas include tamales steamed in banana leaves, fried plantains, and a seafood salad they call ceviche.

Once upon a time, bocas were free everywhere, but more and more bars are beginning to either lose the custom or charge an additional fee for them, although quite a minimal one. Of course, the locals would be happy to direct you to a bar that still serves you a small plate of free food with your drink, so don't be afraid to ask around.

Tomatela: Drink Up!

There are many good beers in Costa Rica, owing to the strong German influence in the country. If you'd like to try a more native liquor, guaro is fermented from sugar cane and is an experience in itself.

Fruit shakes, or refrescos, are very popular in Costa Rica, especially blackberry shakes and star fruit juice. If you're looking for a traditional Costa Rica beverage, you might be thrilled to discover Horchata, a popular drink which is made basically either of cornmeal or rice flour, and flavored with cinnamon.

Be wary when you're offered Chan, a slimy drink made of Guacanaste seeds that's usually an acquired taste more than anything else. Agua Dulce is made of melted sugar cane, served at breakfast. And unfortunately, coffee is not as good as one might expect in Costa Rica; the best beans are reserved for export.

Sweet Costa Rica Foods: Postres! (Desserts)

The most beloved of Costa Rica desserts, and even perhaps of Costa Rica food in general, is Tres Leches, a sumptuous three-layer cake submerged in condensed, evaporated and full cream milk. Some even call it the National dessert.

Other sweets include Flan de Caramelo or caramel custard, and its coconut counterpart, Flan de Coco. Tapa Dulce is Costa Rica brown sugar served in blocks, and it can be found in Cajeta de Coco, another delicious candy ? essentially a fudge with tapa dulce, coconut and orange peel.

Back to Costa Rica Vacations Guide from Costa Rica food.

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