Cuisine of Costa Rica

Cuisine of Costa Rica

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Food

Costa Rican cuisine is known for being tasty, yet fairly mild, with high reliance on fresh fruits and vegetables. The main staple, known as "gallo pinto", consists of rice and black bean. "Gallo pinto" is also known in some Southern Areas of Costa Rica as "burra"; though still recognized the name is rarely used. Also, Costa Rican "gallo pinto" is made with black beans, while Nicaraguans use red beans traditionally. Gallo pinto is served great with orange juice in the morning.

For lunch, the traditional national dish is called a "casado". It again consists of rice and beans, though this time they are served side by side instead of mixed. There will generally be some type of meat ("carne asada", fish, pork chop or chicken) and a salad to round out the dish. There may also be some extras like fried plantain, a slice of white cheese, and/or corn tortillas in accompaniment.

Fresh vegetables are a primary ingredient in most main dishes, and members of the squash family are particularly common. These include varieties such as zucchini, zapallo, chayote, and ayote. Potato, onion, and red pepper are other common ingredients.

Coffee and banana are the two main agricultural exports of the country and also form part of the local cuisine. Coffee is usually served at breakfast and during traditional coffee breaks in the afternoon, usually around 3:00pm.

The Plantain, a larger member of the banana family, is another commonly used fruit and can be served in a variety of ways. Ripe plantains have a sweet flavor, and can be fried in butter or baked in a honey or a sugar-based sauce. Green (unripe) plantains are boiled in soups or can be cooked, mashed into small round cakes and fried to make "patacones". Sweet corn dishes are common traditional meals like "pozole" (corn soup), "chorreadas" (corn pancakes), etc.

Other Costa Rican food staples include corn tortillas, white cheese and "picadillos". Tortillas are used to accompany most meals. Ticos will often fill their tortillas with whatever they are eating and eat it in the form of a "gallo" [direct translation: rooster, however, it resembles a soft Mexican taco] . White cheese is non-processed cheese that is made by adding salt to milk in production. "Picadillos" are meat and vegetable combinations where one or more vegetables are diced, mixed with beef and garnished with spices. Common vegetables used in picadillos are potatoes, green beans, squash, ayote, chayote and arracache. Often, picadillos are eaten in the form of "gallos".

Beverages

The traditional breakfast drink, besides coffee, is called "agua dulce" ("sweet water") and is made from "tapa de dulce". Sugar cane juice is boiled down in traditional "trapiches" and put to solidify in molds in the form of conical sections with the top cut off called "tapas" which can literally be translated into "lids". Then some of this "tapa" is scraped off and dissolved into boiling water or milk to make the sweet "agua dulce".

The traditional drinks for lunch are called "refrescos" or "frescos" for short, and consist of liquefied fruits diluted in either water or milk and sweetened to taste. They come in many varieties such as melon, blackberry, strawberry, watermelon, mango, tamarind, passion fruit, guanabana and cas.

Another popular drink is known as a "granizado", a slush drink made of finely shaved ice and flavored syrup. The most popular flavor is "kola". This is not the cola usually associated with carbonated soda but a fruity cherry flavored syrup. It is sometimes served with evaporated/condensed milk on top depending on the preference of the drinker.

The national liquor of Costa Rica is made from sugar cane and is called "guaro". Ticos drink "guaro" as a shot or mixed with juice or soda. The cost of "guaro" is very cheap compared to the "cerveza" (beer) in Costa Rica which is run by a monopoly. "Imperial" is the most popular and is an American style lager that is also available in "Light"; the "Pilsen" is a bohemian style pilsner also available in a 6.0 version with higher alcohol content; and "Bavaria" is offered in Light, Dark or Gold. The Dutch beer, Heineken, is also produced in Costa Rica but tastes a little different. Import beers can be found in some markets, but are common only in parts of San Jose or larger tourist towns. Costa Rica produces an excellent rum: Ron Centenario and the Flor de Cana rums made in Nicaragua are also widely available.

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