|Tamara Lukens

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Fritada: Ecuadorian Pork Fry

By |October 14th, 2011|

Fritada is by far one of my most favorite Ecuadorian dishes in the entire world.  If you are a pork lover like me, I can guarantee you will agree with me.  Fritada is one of those meals that are a must on road trips to the Andes.

Fritada translates into “fried”, and fritada is traditionally with pork.  You will most likely know this dish as fritada de chancho, where chancho is pig, therefore it is a pork fry.  Got that?  My mind is filled with happy memories of eating fritada, because we always ate it when we visited Quito or Riobamba.  For my family and many Ecuadorian families, the most economical way of traveling and seeing the country is by car or bus.  When I traveled with my family, we packed the truck (yikes!), and headed from Guayaquil to Quito, which due to s-shaped, dirt and gravel roads along the mountainside meant it took eight hours to get there.  However, there was nothing more exciting than stopping at a small roadside huequito (hole in the wall restaurant), and eating some fritada while overlooking some magnificent waterfalls of la Sierra.

Turns out that making fritada is easier than I thought, but it takes some time.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since a lot of our meals are cooked low and slow.  For the fritada, you start by boiling the meat, and eventually the water cooks down to nothing, and you are left with the pork pieces.  These in turn will begin to render its fat, which results in crispy, golden pork nuggets.  Wow!  However, the pork is the least of our problems; it is the sides you decide to serve, which dictate the length of prep and cook time.  Traditional sides include hominy, habas (fava beans), yuca, corn on the cob, camote (sweet potatoes), sweet plantains, boiled potatoes and maíz tostado (toasted dry corn).  My favorite side for fritada (and the most traditional one) is mote, or hominy.  You can buy the canned stuff if you are pressed for time, but I like cooking it from scratch.  Here is the issue: the hominy needs to soak overnight, and cooked for 3-4 hours in order to achieve its soft texture and “popped-popcorn” appearance.  Pick your poison and choose what you want to do.  I won’t judge you for cutting corners being practical.


Empanadas de Mejido: Ecuadorian Sweet Custard, Cheese and Raisin Empanadas

By |October 7th, 2011|

I had forgotten how deliciously sweet these empanadas were! I am so glad that making them made me remember.  The filling may look strange when you look at the ingredients that go into it, but they all mesh so well and you basically end up with a custard-like mixture that melts in your mouth.  Now, the downside is that this empanada is fried.  While I have not baked them using this dough I don’t see why you couldn’t make them baked. However, a main characteristic of these empanadas is that they are dusted with sugar once they are fried.  Baking them probably doesn’t allow for the sugar to stick.

Empanadas de mejido are mostly typical of the Andes region of Ecuador, and I remember eating them during family trips to Quito and Riobamba when I was very, very young.  In Guayaquil, I mostly remember empanadas de queso, which basically have the same dough, but you only stuff them with a bit of cheese.  Empanadas de queso are also fried and they are also dusted with sugar.  Sugar and cheese = AWESOMENESS.


Ají de Tomate de Arbol: Tamarillo and Ají Sauce

By |October 5th, 2011|

Here is another traditional spicy sauce from Ecuador: ají de tomate de árbol.  Literal translation of this fruit is tree tomato, and it is known as such in other countries like Australia and New Zealand.  Tomate de árbol, also known as tamarillo is native to the Andes region of Latin America, so you will not only find this fruit in Ecuador, but in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Chile.  Some varieties of the tamarillo are sweet, but generally speaking tomates de árbol are quite tart.  Back home, our preferred use of tomates de árbol was in juices, which are so delicious and refreshing.  Soups and juices – a staple in Ecuadorian cuisine.

I have not seen tree tomatoes sold at regular grocery stores around here, but the pasteurized pulp is available at my local Hispanic grocery store.  Of course, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found tomate de árbol pulp and was tempted to buy the whole frozen foods case.  This seems to happen quite often.  Soon I will be broke.  But I will have cases of tomate de árbol pulp, which seems to be a fair trade-off.


How to make Encurtido

By |October 3rd, 2011|

So guess what?  There is a better way of making encurtido.  Previously, I was cutting the onions and marinating in lemon juice for 20+ minutes and that was that.  It was good, no qualms about it.  However, I followed Michelle O. Fried’s recipe and…  Well…  I had a moment.  And it was magic.

As you recall, encurtido is nothing more than pickled onions.  Fried’s recipe makes sense: salt, lemon juice, sugar.  SALT!  SUGAR!  That was my epiphany.  I will therefore pass on my epiphany to you.


Guatita: Ecuadorian Beef Tripe Stew

By |September 30th, 2011|

Guatita is a very polarizing Ecuadorian dish, and people normally fall into 2 camps:  they either like it, or they don’t.  That’s it.  So what is Guatita?  Guatita, or guata, or mondongo is beef tripe.  Guatita itself is the name for the beef trip stew, which has a peanut and milk base, and it is one of the key dishes in our Ecuadorian culture.  Guatita also falls into the camp of food-to-eat-when-you’re-hungover, which means it cures the chuchaqui.  It is common to find street vendors selling guatita all over the city of Guayaquil.

As it is traditional with many Ecuadorian meals, guatita is eaten with a side of white rice, to sop up all the stew juices.  I like serving my guatita with avocado slices and encurtido, and it is also common to add some aji sauce to it.  Other ways of serving guatita include a hard-boiled egg in lieu of avocados, or just plain with white rice.

If you’ve had beef tripe before, and you kinda-sort-a-liked-it-but-weren’t-100%-sure-about-it, I highly recommend you trying guatita.  With an array of flavors and spices including the traditional refrito, plus cumin, peanuts, and milk, I guarantee you will be able to stomach this organ meat much better.  Pun intended.