The one word that can generally be used to describe the food in Costa Rica is fresh! The vast majority of the ingredients found in Costa Rican food while on your family vacation, honeymoon, or even a destination wedding will most likely come from within the country and even the area where you are eating & traveling.
Fertile Soil Creates a Rich, Food Culture in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is located within the Tropic of Cancer. It is a very fertile country with rich, volcanic soils that are great for growing things. There are 13 climatic zones that span a wide range of elevations, from sea level to over 13,000 feet above sea level. The variety of fruits and vegetables that exist in Costa Rica is truly amazing and the sheer amount would have you convinced that in order to go hungry in this country, one would have to make an honest effort!
It is not abnormal to see trees and other vines so full of fruit that the abundance is falling off of the tree and going uneaten or unused. This is especially true with bananas, plantains & when mangoes are in season.
Rice & Beans = Typical Dishes in Costa Rica
In addition to being fresh, traditional dishes in Costa Rica are quite simple in nature. One dish that you are sure to come across while in Costa Rica is a white rice & black beans dish, which is referred to as a casado. Translated, casado means “married,” as in husband & wife or in this case the rice and beans. While there are varying stories about how this name became, this tends to be the most common and easily explained.
These two staples (white riche and black beans) are served together throughout Costa Rica and are accompanied with a source of protein and some form of vegetable. Normally the protein is chicken, meat, fish or an egg. The vegetable is typically a simple salad or a combination of some form of chopped and cooked squash, carrots and/or potatoes. The salad consists of lettuce, cucumber, tomato, red or green pepper and ½ of a lime or “limon” with a pinch of salt, which acts as the dressing. The vegetable mix is called “picadillo” and normally cut up into tiny pieces, cooked and served within a light, chicken broth based sauce.
Traditional Costa Rican Breakfast: Gallo Pinto!
Rice and beans are the staple of Costa Rican food, and the main ingredient to their favorite breakfast dish (which is called “Gallo Pinto”). Gallo Pinto is served in the morning for breakfast and consists of rice & beans that are leftover from the day before. These two ingredients along with thyme, cilantro, small, sautéed pieces of onion, garlic and sweet peppers are typically thrown together in a flying pan and cooked together with Salsa Lizano to make Gallo Pinto.
While it might seem odd to eat rice and beans for breakfast, this plate is the norm and Ticos often say: “Mas Tico que/de Gallo Pinto!” to describe things that are very Costa Rican. A few other plates that we will discuss later that are very Costa Rican are Arroz con Pollo, Olla de Carne and my favorite, the Caribbean dish called “Rice & Beans”.
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