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The Food of Nicaragua - "La Comida Nica"

The Food of Nicaragua - "La Comida Nica"

On an optional excursion to nearby historic towns, visitors can meander along the vibrant colonial streets. They can shop at the bustling outdoor markets while sampling local fruits, vegetables, beans, and more while mingling with the locals. In historic Granada, be sure to try the famous nacatamales – vegetable or meat filled tamales steamed in banana leaves. On excursions, visitors may leisurely peruse the food stalls for an authentic taste of what this part of the Nicaraguan coast has to offer.
Guests who chose to visit a market in town will get a real taste of the Nicaraguan lifestyle, typical foodstuffs, and tempo. What better way to explore a culture than to learn how the locals eat? At the market or in a Nicaraguan restaurant you may come across local specialties such as:

  • Gallo Pinto – A staple in Nicaragua, gallo pinto is made with red beans and rice, cooked separately and fried together. It is eaten for breakfast or as an accompaniment to any meal.
  • Vigarón – A plantain leaf serves as a dish for this delightful salad made with boiled yucca, chicharrón (crunchy fried pork rind) and cabbage salad– a specialty of Granada.
  •   Nacatamal - Nacatamal can be enjoyed as a filling street snack, and is a specialty of Granada on the Caribbean coast. In the home it is typically prepared for holidays or special celebrations. Thenacatamal consists of cornmeal dough, meat, rice, and various vegetables. The filling is wrapped in a plantain leaf and steamed for hours.
  •  Quesillo – A delicious and readily available street snack. A fresh tortilla is stuffed with mild Nicaraguan cheese, topped with onions, vinegar, and a dollop of fresh cream.
  • Rondon – This hearty stew takes hours to prepare and incorporates surprising ingredients. The basic components are fresh fish (sometimes red meat or pork), peppers, fruits and vegetables such as banana, cassava and onion, and coconut milk. Rondon is a specialty of Bluefields on the Caribbean coast.
  • Indijo Viejo – This delicious stew is made with shredded meat (beef or chicken), bitter oranges, corn flour, vegetables, and achiote. The achiote imparts an enticing reddish-orange hue.  
  • Tajadas – Tajadas are deep fried plantain chips. They are available seemingly around every corner in Nicaragua, and commonly find their way onto plates as an accompaniment to the main meal, in addition to, or in lieu of rice.

Some delicious sweets that are not to be missed include:

  • Buñuelos de Yuca   - Shredded yucca root is combined with salty Nicaraguan cheese and eggs to make this mouthwatering dessert. The yucca batter is deep fried and the fritters are soaked in a sweet, spice infused syrup.
  • Pastel de Tres Leches – A decadently moist and rich sponge cake, so named for the three types of milk used - evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk. Fresh out of the oven, the warm cake is bathed in sweet, creamy syrup made of these “tres leches.”
  • Arroz con Leche – sweet rice pudding made with milk, sugar, and flavored with cinnamon sticks
  • Pío Quinto – Velvety rum cake is topped with an egg custard and a dusting of cinnamon to make this spectacular dessert. Sometimes raisins are also used, and often a pool of rum syrup awaits the happy eater at the bottom of the dish. Try it with Nicaragua’s famous rum, Flor de Caña!

Popular drinks range from the standard Nicaraguan coffee, with or without milk, to thirst-quenching tropical fruit juices and sweet horchata made with rice and cinnamon, to options for those with a more adventurous palate such as pitahaya (dragon fruit beverage), pozol  and chicha (fermented corn drinks) and pinolillo (cocoa and cornmeal beverage).

Corn is a main staple in “la comida Nica” (Nicaraguan cuisine) across the country, however there are some regional differences. For example on the Caribbean coast one will find more use of coconut milk, which is sometimes added to the national staple dish gallopinto.  Of course, seafood is featured on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.

Colorful fruits and street-side treats will entice you as you browse under the hot sun. Some tasty typical food products that shoppers may encounter at the market include juicy mangoes, melons, jocote, pipian (squash-like fruit similar to pumpkin), papaya, tamarind, fresh avocado, yucca, and bananas. Common spices sold fresh or dried in the markets include oregano, cilantro and achiote (also known as annatto; sold as seeds or ground into a powder).  Street food is abundant and diverse. Some popular items include freshly roasted corn on the cob and fried plantains. In the morning you can fill up on a traditional Nicaraguan breakfast with eggs, gallopinto and fresh corn tortillas, or try piping hot plantain filled with cheese and eggs! Delicious!