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Eating our way across Ecuador

Having read my blog posts, you all know that food is a big interest of mine. My idea of a great souvenir is a cookbook of regional cuisine. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring one back from Ecuador, I spied a slim volume in a store window in Quito but didn’t feel the book was worth almost $40.Unfortunately, it was the only regional cookbook I ever saw. Books are expensive in Mexico because Mexicans don’t buy many books due to their costs, I wonder if the situation is the same in Ecuador?

Someone asked me how I rate the food I ate there. It’s better than Yucatecan food in general but not as good as the Mexican food available in the rest of the republic. If cost is your main criteria, the food is better in Ecuador. For $2.00 you get a 6 ounce glass of juice, soup, a small chop (either pork or beef) or a piece of chicken, an overly generous serving of white rice, a tiny salad, some vegetables and a simple dessert. We had variations of this meal everywhere in Ecuador, there wasn’t that much difference between the $2.00 version and the $6.00 except instead of jello, dessert was cake or ice cream.

The huge quantities of  white rice aside, it’s not a bad way to eat. We didn’t see people consuming liters of Coca cola with their meals, which combined with the hilly terrain  could explain why we saw few really obese people.

A few meals really stand out. Acting on the recommendation of an ex-pat we met in Cuenca, we decided stop at Zoe’s for botanas and wine. The appetizer menu was limited, but we decided on a couple of different things, neither of which was available. Hunger makes me impulsive, so rather than look at entrees, I chose nachos (at around $7 or $8) and a trio of brochettes for $5. The wine was very good. Imported goods are expensive in Ecuador, which I am sure could account for the high price of the cute little casserole dish of what tasted like Hormel’s canned  beef chili and beans garnished with Tostitos that arrived at our table, accompanied by three unmemorable spears adorned with meat.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the tapas bar in Cuenca.While they were pricey too, the tapas were interesting . Thin slices of eggplant adorned with imported Spanish manchego cheese and the meat and cheese platter with Serrano ham were pricy but did not disappoint. With so many restaurants to chose from, it says a lot that we ate at Cafe Eucalyptus twice. The food and wine was excellent, the service was good and the espresso was one of the best we had in Ecuador.

Uninspired is the kindest adjective I can think to describe most of the many breakfasts we consumed. I don´t expect more than scrambled eggs,bread, juice and coffee from the meal included with lodging.However when we ate in restaurants I was disappointed that most places didn´t serve much else. Bacon was missing from all the menus! I missed the variety of offerings that Mexican restaurants serve for breakfast.

As a big fan of street food I was disappointed. We tried Sharmwa, lured by a sign proclaiming Arabic food and what looked like  al pastor roasting on the familiar spit. Husband´s expression was priceless when he bit into his pita bread laden with meat. Cardboard, in his opinion is equally as tasty as chicken breast, even if it´s marinated and roasted on a spit. The café árabe was equally disappointing.

Grabbing an arepa or empanada in the stand by the university was much more interesting. Arepas are a filled round patty with taste similar to cornbread, I loved them. They were available with a meat or cheese filling. Another thing I missed was salsa picante, there is only one type of hot sauce and it reminds me of Tabasco sauce, no depth, just heat. The one time I asked for salsa picante to jazz up the plain scrambled eggs the waiter shrugged and said there was nothing available. 

Coffee over all was disappointing in Ecuador. Cafe tinto is a strong brew served in a small cruet similar to what we use for olive oil and vinegar. Your choice of hot milk or hot water is brought to the table where you add the cafe tinto to taste. We got the impression that it´s brewed in the morning and left out to acquire it´s distinctive flavor. We were treated to day old cafe tinto one morning in our hotel.

Overall, the seafood was good, the set menus were nutritious and filling, the street food tended to salchipapas and other hotdogs. I never did get an opportunity to try cuy. The baked goods and ice cream were wonderful.

We arrived in Cuenca during a church holiday and were treated to rows and rows of booths selling confections. Donuts, cocadas of many kinds, turrón, candied fruits and many other delights. There were pastries filled with cream, dipped in chocolate or plain. It took considerable restraint not put ourselves in a sugar induced coma.

About Theresa Diaz Gray

Born in New York City, I grew up in California, and have lived in 3 countries and 6 states. I'm a first generation Cuban-American who lives in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I'm committed to living an abundant and creative life and helping others do so too through DIY!


  1. Jonna,I draw the line at eating amphibians. I will eat goat, deer and rabbit. Not so sure about snake and iguana either.
    Good coffee in Mexico wasn’t all that common when we first moved here. I have an impressive collection of matching jars from our instant coffee days.

  2. Well, I won’t eat rabbit so I wouldn’t eat a guinea pig either. I’m picky like that, no pets on my diet.

    The coffee thing though, that is really sad. It reminds me of times past in Mexico when it was impossible to get anything but nescafe, there was just no appreciation of the great coffee grown here. Ecuador too, they grow excellent coffee but clearly don’t appreciate it.

  3. Contessa,the seafood was fabulous and the food wasn’t bad just plain. I have more to say about our trip. The place is beautiful and the artesiana is worderful.

    Crazy Rita, It’s another Latin American country, so many things were similar culturally. Of course, as a tourist the experience is going to be different compared to living there. I have more to post about the trip.


  4. I would love to go to South America. My only real Hispanic experience is Mexico. But I am lovingit while I am here in San Luis Potosi. I am going to go back and read your post more carefully since I really only glanced at it. How would you compare the culture to Mexico?

  5. Overall impression, don’t travel there for the food. Nut what does stand out, the people, the culture, the architecture?

  6. Deborah, I eat rabbit so why not guinea pig? The breakfast was boring, the food overall was okay, I just wrote about the more memorable meals.


  7. That’s rather disappointing, bad coffee and boring food. Would you have tried the cuy if you found it?


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