Monday, July 18, 2011

Food in Costa Rica

While we've been here in Costa Rica, Chris and I have tried a lot of different types of food.  Arroz con pollo/carne is a very popular, typical Costa Rican dish that we've tried a few times.  It basically is just seasoned rice and meat.  Also carne, the spanish word for meat, usually refers to beef when it's on the menu.  Another typical Costa Rican dish we've tried is a casado.  Casados are usually pretty big plates with rice, meat (usually chicken or beef, sometimes pork), beans, some sort of salad, and either potatoes or plantains.  Casados seem fairly popular, probably because they're really filling and usually only around $4-5 most places.  You can also have a lot of options depending on the place you buy casados such as what kind of meat, seasoned or plain rice, what type of potatoes or plantains, or what type of salad.  Gallos are also popular for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and are basically like soft tacos in the US.  You usually get two or 3 small, corn tortillas with either meat, cheese, potatoes, or whatever else on top.  When I got gallos they had really good seasoned, shredded chicken.  Most restaurants we've been to have all those typical Costa Rican foods, and then usually some american foods like sandwiches or hamburgers, and french fries seem to be pretty popular here as well.  Another Costan Rican food we saw a lot by the beach, but didn't try is called ceviche.  Ceviche is uncooked, marinated fish.  From the menus I've seen it looks almost soup-ish since it generally comes in a bowl with the sauce the fish is marinated in.  As far as restaurants, sodas are really popular in Costa Rica.  A soda is basically a small restaurant, or food stand, which is sometimes combined with a little shop or fruit and vegetable stand.  They are pretty popular with people who live in Costa Rica, although if you don't speak spanish a lot of times the people working don't know english.  Sodas also usually have pretty good deals on food, depending on what part of the country you're in.

For the most part it's easiest to find Costa Rican foods, and maybe some American foods at restaurants.  The occasional restaurant also had Mexican food, but sometimes that could be confusing because Mexican food and Costa Rican food often have the same names, but aren't the same things.  The Mexican food here is basically like the Mexican food you find in the US and the names are all the same. Costa Rica also has things like chalupas and tacos, which we've tried, but they're not like the chalupas or tacos you find in the United States.  The chalupa Chris tried was several tortillas laid out and covered a layer of refried beans, then topped with lettuce, meat, various other vegetables, and sour cream and guacamole on top.  I also tried tacos at two different restaurants and tacos here usually have seasoned meat rolled in a tortilla, which is then fried.

We've also checked out a few cafeterías (coffee shops), heladerías (ice cream shops), chocolaterías (chocolate shops), and panaderías (bakeries).  First of all, the coffee and hot chocolate here are amazing, and Chris really liked the coffee ice cream we tried one night.  Besides the coffee ice cream, they also have some really good fruit flavors like "nieve de lima/limón" which is usually described as a lemon or lime sorbet.  At the chocolatería we tried some lemon chocolate, and some chocolate with chili powder, both of which were delicious.  Also the bakeries here are awesome.  The bread and pastries are usually huge and really cheap.  The first bakery we stopped at, we got a giant cream cheese danish type thing which was bigger than a loaf of bread and cost about $1.50.  In Coco we also found the biggest cinnamon rolls we've ever seen; they were bigger than Chris' spread out hand, and cost 75 cents or so.

As far as grocery stores, they're not the greatest unless you have a good kitchen.  There aren't many things you can just buy to eat in the car or take hiking, and the things they do have are generally fairly expensive.  Fruit and vegetables are really easy to find and usually not too expensive if they're things that grow locally.  If you do have a kitchen it's not too expensive to buy meat, rice, or dried beans.  Although milk is usually pretty expensive here; about $4 a gallon is the best deal we were able to find.  Another food that's really hard to find is peanut butter, I've only seen it at two grocery stores and a tiny jar of it (about a third of the size of a standard jar in the US) generally ran about $5 or $6.  For the most part we stopped at small restaurants since it was generally cheaper than buying food we could eat without a kitchen.

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