Oh, what I would do to have some of the best dishes from Costa Rica right now. The food in this tropical country of Central America is usually very natural and fresh. Street vendors can be found selling fruit on most corners of San Jose, and the street is littered with panaderías with the best Tres leches cake that you will ever have, among other delicious oven-baked options. The cornerstone of Costa Rican cuisine is definitely the dynamite duo of rice and beans. And when I say “cornerstone”, I mean “served with literally every meal”; cover it with some Salsa Lizano and you will be in heaven three times a day. Actually, use Salsa Lizano with any of the following dishes and you’ll think like you’ve died and gone to culinary heaven. Here are some of the highlights of how this country satisfies appetites and induces food comas to unsuspecting tourists and fully expecting locals alike.
Gallo pinto (“spotted rooster”)
The national dish of Costa Rica, and for good reason. The speckled appearance is due to rice and beans being stir fried in a pan together, and it is usually served as a breakfast dish accompanied by eggs and sour cream or cheese. Some “Americanized” restaurants may serve pinto with other traditional breakfast items of the U.S. such as sausage and bacon.
Casado (“married man”)
The name comes from when wives would wrap lunch in a banana leaf for their husbands before they went to work in the fields. The dish is comprised of (you guess it) rice and beans—served side by side this time—and usually some type of meat. Fried plantains (plátanos, or patacones) are a popular addition along with the occasional salad as well.
The name is a combination of chicharrón and frijoles (beans)… Chicharrón is fried, crispy pork that is a popular boca (snack) by itself in bars and restaurants. Chifrijo is accompanied by rice and pico de gallo, and usually eaten nacho-style with tortilla chips. Maybe my personal favorite dish that Costa Rica has to offer.
Ceviche is a typical seafood dish made with raw ingredients that can include octopus, shrimp, shellfish, tilapia, dorado, dolphin and sea bass. The fish is soaked in lemon and lime juice that “cooks” the fish by breaking down proteins. The concoction is then mixed with a variety of spices and seasonings to give it its signature fresh and citrus-y taste.
…anything. The most popular is probably chicken, but I have seen a variety of options including different types of carne, seafood and even just fresh vegetables. Whatever the meat, the dish is mixed up with rice, vegetables and mild spices, and is a favorite pairing with Salsa Lizano.
Plátanos, or plantains, can be served in a variety of ways. Patacones, or tostones, are made by slicing the plantain and smashing the slice before frying it, resulting in a better version of a potato chip. Plátanos dulces are a sweetened version of the banana relative, and often served with helado (ice cream). Whatever the case, plátanos are a delicious option for any meal—be it an appetizer, side dish or dessert.
Yep, just bakeries in general. Pretty self explanatory.
A food post about Costa Rica wouldn’t be complete without a mention of coffee, even if it is technically a beverage. I’m almost certain the entire country has an addiction that they have to revisit multiple times a day, but I would do almost anything to have another afternoon cup of Prensa francesa from what became my favorite cafe during my time abroad.
These are just a few of the endless options to satisfy your appetite while in Costa Rica. If you’re ever lucky to be enjoying these tasty platters, just keep in mind those of us who would do anything to trade taste buds for the day.