The Tacoless Taco Man

Food is deeply embedded in the Costa Rican culture. Traditionally it’s a way of life. A source of income from which fisherman, market venders and those running the local sodas depend upon. Simple, and often made from the most basic of ingredients, Costa Rican food epitomises everything the country holds sincere. An appreciation for what nature has to offer, and family orrientated, Costa Rican food is the perfect mix of quick and healthy food.

Whilst I was in Peru I experienced some of the finest food I have had and Costa Rica is quickly following suit. I have indulged in a variety of foods here in Costa Rica so far, from the local sodas to pricier dining. Costa Rican cuisine has a focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, with rice and beans being a staple for most dishes. You could argue the meals are quite basic, with rice and beans often being served breakfast, lunch and dinner, however I believe they have a comforting home cooked feel to them.

One of the first few nights here in Costa Rica I ventured out to a roadside Taco place where
I found Roberto, the owner of a cosy little eatery. I was looking forward to trying my first Taco in Costa Rica when Roberto began to point towards the menu. ‘Only burger’ he expressed. I was a little confused at first but soon enough I was on my way, cheeseburger in hand. This early experience of eating out in Costa Rica set the tone for much of what was to come. A lot of the local eateries often do not have their full menu at hand, they are dependent on what is sold at the markets daily. In a way, this explains the somewhat simplicity behind the delicious food here.

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Each day I have eaten out at least once, this is because of how cheap it is to eat at the sodas. It would cost more for me to cook for myself in my apartment. The sodas have a real community feel and they are very welcoming. I have found one in particular which has become my local and I can rely on them come breakfast, lunch or dinner. Gallo pinto (rice and beans) being the traditional breakfast and Casado (mixture of rice, black beans, fresh vegetables and a meat of your choice) being my main meals of choice.

When I have not been eating out, Lewis and I have experimented with our cooking, trying things with different fruits and vegetables. One of our greatest creations thus far is our British take on the plantain, the traditional way to use plantain here in Costa Rica is to fry it, however we cut them into thicker pieces which resemble more of a roast potato, we then season and fry them over the stove until they start to crisp. They resemble roast potatoes in many ways but are lighter on the stomach and more of a hands on food – perfect accompanied with a fresh salsa or tomato based side.

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Above is our take on the ever so popular yucca fries, we went for a thicker yucca wedge rather than fries.

I am very much enjoying the food here in Costa Rica. Even with most of my time so far being spent in the relatively small coastal town of Samara, there is so much choice and variety of places to eat. From Italian restaurants, to strong Mexican influences and most importantly the hidden sodas. The importance of food here in costa Rica is clearly evident in the passion and hard work put into their craft. They want to impress with their dishes and drinks, and welcome you with genuine warmth. From staying open through power cuts and creating spontaneous exquisite dishes, to the rustic microbar where the bartender creates exceptional cocktails with admirable intricacy. The hospitality is second to none.

It is clear Costa Rica and I share a common love for food. It was just the other day I was discussing with someone how important and fundamental food is in all aspects of life. For me it has always been one of the most compelling factors of travelling.

Mayela preparing the food at my local soda ‘La Perla’.

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