Caldo de Albóndigas de Carne y Plátano Verde: Plantain and lamb meatball soup

By |November 17th, 2011|

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I recently made this soup because it reminded me of an old *almost* favorite soup I used to eat back in Ecuador.  And I say, *almost* because this soup has cabbage.  I don’t like cabbage.  Well, I thought I didn’t like cabbage.  I didn’t like it when I was a little girl, and I made my nana puree the soup, otherwise I would not eat it.  Turns out, I do like cabbage, and I ate the heck out of this soup.

This recipe is adapted from this book I cannot live without, Comidas del Ecuador, by Michele O. Fried.  This soup is traditional from the province of Manabí, located on the coast of Ecuador, between the Guayas and Esmeraldas provinces.  I found it fascinating to make meatballs using plantains in a combination of cooked and raw, which reminded me of  bolones de verde (Warning: these old pictures of bolones de verde are unappetizing, but the bolones de verde ROCK!).  The soup I ate back home in Guayaquil had just regular meatballs, or albóndigas, made of ground beef, with no plantains.  For this soup, I decided to use ground lamb to give it a different flavor – more earthy, as well as brown the meatballs before cooking them in the broth so they would hold together.  A basic refrito is used as a base for the soup and for the meatballs.  With winter around the corner, this simple soup is a must.


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.


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.


Locro de Zapallo: Ecuadorian Squash Stew

By |September 20th, 2011|

Since it is basically Fall, I thought what better way to welcome it but with a Locro de Zapallo, also known as Ecuadorian Squash Stew.  Although we don’t have four seasons in Ecuador, this locro fits the category of comfort food and fall fare which many of us love.

Locros (LOH-crohs) are stews – usually from root vegetables – with the consistency of a cream of vegetable soup.  Locros are thick and hearty and they are normally the plato fuerte, or main dish.  In Ecuador, the most popular locro is locro de papa, which is a potato stew, and yet another one Yaguarlocro, consists of tripe and blood cooked with the potatoes.  Locros are traditionally eaten in the Andes region of the country, but it is a dish that is loved by coastal Ecuadorians as well – we used to eat it all the time.  Zapallo (squash) is also very popular in Ecuador and it makes a delicious stew.  Don’t fret my tasty friends, I will bring you locro de papa in a later post.  We’ll see about the yaguarlocro…

This is the first time I’ve made locro de zapallo for El Señor Hubs, although he claims we’ve eaten something similar before.  There are lots of Ecuadorian meals that are stews, but I’m positive I’ve not made this before, because I don’t recall how much a pain in the rear was to peel these darn green acorn squashes.  Peeling the squash was the only time-consuming part.  The rest is easy, and the results are well worth it.


Crema de Aguacate: Ecuadorian Creamy Avocado Soup

By |September 16th, 2011|

Since I don’t want to give up on Summer just yet, but it is now a chillier as we get deep into September, I figured out a way to come to terms with both.  The easiest way to do it is by making this Crema de Aguacate from Michelle O. Fried’s book “Comidas del Ecuador”.  Remember my new (old) Ecuadorian cookbooks?

You may or may not know that Ecuadorians’ diet relies heavily on soups.  Normally each big meal, whether it is almuerzo (lunch) or merienda (dinner), consists of a soup, an entree, which is normally a protein of some sort with rice, and then a dessert which normally is in the form of some fruit.  Eating soups is always comforting, although I must tell you that when I was little, I hated soup.   With a passion.  I think every Ecuadorian child  most likely feel this way about soup.  To me, soup as a child was the equivalent of El Señor Hub’s “Eat your peas!!” scoldings.  ACK.  Those days are long gone and I now I love soup.  He, however, still hates peas.

So all you need for this soup are three ingredients: chicken stock, avocados and lemon juice.  To make things easier, I used store-bought chicken stock.  I normally use either low sodium, or no salt because I can then control the amount of salt needed.  Sprinkle some chopped cilantro on top and serve with some bread or blue corn chips and you are good to go.

Now that I think of it, this kinda looks like pea soup!  Or like guacamole soup!  I suppose if you have leftover guacamole, you can transform it into a delicious crema de aguacate.  Provided no one double dipped in your guac.  Ick.


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