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Guide to the 5 top local dishes you should try on your trip to Ecuador

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Ecuadorian cuisine is characterized by fresh ingredients caught, grown, or harvested in each of the agricultural zones, from the coast to the highlands and into the Amazon. Many dishes are prepared with chicken, meat, or pork, and basted in a garlic- or cumin-based seasoning. No matter what dish you get, it will almost always come accompanied by a heaping serving of rice. You’ll also find that many dishes also come with potatoes.


 

Don’t worry - if you’re not a culinary risk-taker, then there are plenty of options that will be comfortable for you. In fact, in the big cities, you can even find American restaurant chains like Dominos, KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Subway, Wendy’s and many others.
While these restaurants are “normal” food options for you, remember that eating a country’s local delicacies is part of the experience of traveling, and going out of your comfort zone is usually a rewarding (or at least memorable!) experience.

You should definitely take advantage of your time here to step out on a limb and try something you won’t find anywhere else. Here are five of our favorite dishes we think visitors should try on their trip to Ecuador:  



 
 


 

          

  • Ceviche

Where can I find it? The coast.

What is it? Ceviche (also called “cebiche”) is a seafood dish prepared in various styles along the Pacific coast of South America, especially in Ecuador and Peru. Unlike the Peruvian style which has raw fish “cooked” by the lime juice, Ecuadorian ceviche combines cooked shrimp, onions, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, and lime juice. It is usually served with “chifles” (fried plantain chips) or popcorn to add a bit of a crunch.

 

  • Cuy

Where can I find it? The highlands.

What is it? Guinea pig, but you might not want to tell that your kids! Although this is served in many restaurants in the highlands, the most authentic way to experience the Andean flavor of cuy is to buy it from a street vendor. It is roasted over flames and served on a stick. Most describe the flavor as a gamier, salty meat, similar to rabbit. While it doesn’t quite burst with flavor, it is definitely unique to the Andean highlands.


 
 
  • Encocado

Where can I find it? The coast.

What is it? Encocado, fish seasoned with spices and coconut milk, is a staple of the fresh seafood diet of the coast. It can be prepared with any number of fish, but in Ecuador the most common fish is a type of sea bass called “corvina.”

 

  • Yahuarlocro

Where can I find it? The highlands.

What is it? Lamb intestine stew with a potato base. “Locro” is a signature stew of the Ecuadorian highlands, with cheese, potatoes, beans, and corn. Yahuarlocro adds  some protein to the mix, with sheep intestines. It is usually served with avocado, but if you really want to make it an authentic experience, add some of the “sangre de borrego” (sheep’s blood) to the bowl!

 

  • Chontacuro

Where can I find it?  Amazon region.

What is it? Worms! That’s right, this plate is great for those daring foodies out there. No trip to the Ecuadorian jungle is complete without a bit of a culinary adventure, and that’s exactly what chontacuro offers. It is a large worm that is high in protein & vitamins and is rumored by the Amazonian tribes to have many healing properties. It can be prepared in just about any way - fried, roasted, boiled, or even grilled. If you can stomach the thought of eating a giant rainforest worm, you might agree with most other tourists that it’s actually pretty tasty!


 
 

 
  • Other dishes that you should try while in Ecuador

    We’ll be honest, with so many delicious local dishes, it was hard to pick five to highlight. Fortunately, on your trip to Ecuador, you don’t have to limit yourself to guinea pigs and worms! Be sure to try these dishes as well -

     

    • Llapingachos (potato pancakes with peanut butter sauce)
    • Empanadas (tortilla pockets filled with cheese, chicken, pork, or meat)
    • Chuleta (pork chop)
    • Chuzo (shish-kebabs)
    • Fritada de chancho (fried pork)
    • Salchipapas (french fries & chopped up hot dogs)
    • Cangrejo criollo (Creole Crab)
    • Seco de Pollo/ Chivo (a popular chicken or goat dish)
    • Guatita (beef tripe stew)
    • Encebollado (fish & yucca soup)
    • Fanesca (a fish dish prepared specifically during Holy Week)
    • Humita/ Ayacas (tamales stuffed with potatoes, cheese, and usually a meat)
    • Mote pillo (hominy corn with scrambled eggs)
    • Hornado (garlic & cumin seasoned baked pork)

 
 

 

Drinks unique to Ecuador

 

  • Quaker (a fruity oatmeal drink)
  • Colada morada (a thick, warm, purple drink made from corn starch and berries)
  • Morocho (a sweet, thick drink made from corn, milk, cinnamon, sugar, and raisins)

 It’s also a good idea to ask the locals what they recommend. Every family has its own recipes, and each region puts a unique spin on national favorites, so don’t forget to explore the menu for yourself, we would be happy to make insider recommendations for your trip, don't forget to contact the Ecuador and Galapagos travel experts!

 
By Ecuador & Galapagos Insiders
By Ecuador & Galapagos Insiders
Ecuador & Galapagos Insiders is a leading travel company based in Ecuador and run by local tour guides and travel specialists, we are happy to provide expert and free trip planning advice, no commitment fee involved.
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