Tracey says “you always say you travel for the food, but you haven’t really written about it.”
Well, here it goes.
As a chef, I learned that Mexico has one of the five ‘master’ cuisines, along with India, China, France, and the fifth one which I cannot remember (too many Pisco Sours I guess). Mexico did not disappoint – Standouts included:
- Menudo: a tripe soup with fresh oregano, onions and lime in a thin broth with hominy. One of my all-time favourites.
- Limonata: a wonderful fresh lime juice with a touch of sugar and sparkling water. This was made outstandingly by the bartender on the Mazatlan ferry.
- Horchata: a rice-based drink with vanilla and cinnamon. Wow! Made in a small village near Mezcal.
- Hot Chocolate: made fresh for Tracey. The chocolate was ground in a mortar and pestle, added to rich milk, and cooked on a tin sheet – over a cactus wood fire no less.
I don’t think we had a bad meal in Mexico. We searched out roadside stands and only ate inside once! The people are eager to add complex spices to the meals and the freshness was outstanding.
I have to mention the Chorizo. Being a sausage freak, I was happy to try out every variation of sausage to be found. Where was the best? Easy answer! We stopped at a roadside stand in Guatemala, where a man with a mop was brushing his grill with water to create steam for the cooking sausages. They were amazing! Just the right amount of smoke and stuffed with a very herbal mixture. I could have stayed at this roadside stand for a week.
Antigua,Guatemala surprised me. Confit? That’s what the menu says. Do they actually cook them in the melted goose fat? I must order it to find out. It’s just OK – not completely traditional, but the ambience and the 35 year old rum contributed to a great night out. The Sangria was pretty good too and Tracey said the bread pudding was her favourite. This same night we had an aperitif of hibiscus flowers and aguardiente (fire water) a great blend, not too toxic and very unique!
Nicaragua. In Leon we went to a traditional restaurant and I had the local specialty ‘Chanco con Yucca’ otherwise known as Sauerbraten. It was a fermented/pickled pork roast with a southern twist!
Gallo Pinto – rice and beans – all the time, everywhere – you can’t escape them. The same with Pollo Asado – roast chicken. In Mexico I kept screaming ‘pollo asado’ every time we passed a sign advertising roast chicken, harping on about getting some. Never had any the entire time we were in Mexico. Good thing, Seven countries later and it is the only thing on every menu and most times the only thing on the menu. I’m ready for something different. Oh, the Gallo Pinto was best in El Salvador.
Motoring down the highway in Costa Rica, we spot a couple of semi trucks out in front of a restaurant and a couple of local workers seem to be enjoying their meal inside. The decision is made, we pull in. Uh Oh, it is a Chinese restaurant. Well let’s try it anyway. One of the best chow meins we have ever had!
Panama forgot how to cook. No salt, no spices, no flavour? We ended up cooking our own food here, not for lack of trying the local fare. We went down to the ‘row’ where all the best restaurants were and……. Still the same result. Pack your own lunch here.
From Panama we hopped onboard the Stahlratte. One night we set up a grill on the beach and made skewers of some local fish. I did not see the fish but it’s meat was the toughest I have ever seen! I could not cut it with a knife let alone chew through it. Pass the salad. Otherwise the food on the boat was quite enjoyable. I volunteered to do the cooking for our merry band of 25 travellers for a couple of days and had fun rifling through the galley and trying to build a meal. Thanks Ludwig for letting me play.
Colombia beckons. Stayed tuned it starts to get funky now.