Sunday, February 8, 2009

Traditional Nicaragua

Form Ties
The Very Good Reason! (don't you love the form clamps/ties they're using?)

So the house has been undergoing a bit of construction lately. Ceramic tile is now covering concrete in half of the house, the shower drains have traps and there is a big hole which is becoming a beautiful window between the kitchen and living room.

As it is a small house, no room has been left unaffected by the chaos, especially the kitchen. And since there is no oven and the propane stove has been folded up (and we were without electricity for four days last week which means no fridge), time to eat out!

So this is my chance to share some very traditional Nicaraguan food with you instead of those peppermints I made to remind me of home!

Opening Whatever Tamal
Peeling back the corn husk of a 'yotamal'

Northern Nicaragua grows a huge amount of corn. Pinol is a drink made from elote, a type of corn and Nicaraguans traditionally call themselves (in songs or sayings) Pinoleros, or corn farmers.

Also made from elote is the yotamal. It is the moist ground kernals of elote mixed with sour cream, cheese or milk. Then a portion is wrapped in the corn husk, set upright next to it's brethren in a pan and boiled until firm.

Yotamal with sour cream and cheese

They cost 25 cents each (they're about the size of a bar of soap) and to eat, you take off the husk, put more sour cream and cheese on it and dig in!

Because of the elote, it has the taste of cornbread, a little sweet, but a texture more solid and creamy than breadlike.

Tejada Platanos
Tejada (fried plantain strips), not a great picture, but the electricity in all of Rivas went out after I bought it, so I took pictures with my headlamp and a high ISO.

Nicaragua's answer to fast food is tejada. Tejada is a very local term and close as the town of Granada, about 30 miles away, they have different terminology for the same foods.

Tejada Outlet
The place for all your tejada needs

I never get tired of tejada, because, well, it's fried, crunchy strips of plantain.

Generally it comes with cabbage salad (like coleslaw, but with a lime dressing) and your choice of BBQ beef, pork or chicken also. And a large portion (more than I can eat for dinner) costs 45 cordoba, or $2.25.

Tejada Bags
Bags of tejada ready to go

There are several places to get tejada and many women sell it on their doorstep. I've found my favorite place that not only gets everything right, but also will put my salad in a separate baggy so the plantains don't get soggy.

Tejada Meat
Raw beef to the left, cooked to the right.

The nacatamal is undoubtedly the most traditional food in this southwestern part of Nicaragua.

Nacatamal Packaged
Nacatamal wrapped in a banana leaf

It is eaten on Christmas morning virtually without exception and for some, it is breakfast every Sunday morning.

Nacatamal Served
Served nacatamal

It is cooked in a manner similar to the yotamal, but it is wrapped in a banana leaf and filled with cornmeal, pork (with the bones left in), potatoes, rice, tomatoes and garlic, salt and spices.

Rice and pork fill the insides

All these foods are eaten by different names throughout Central America. They have been flavorful sustenance since long before political borders.

And there is so much more, maduro, tostones, gallo pinto, but you can discover others when you come to taste for yourself!

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