We recently returned from a ten-day vacation in Costa Rica, having had a fabulous time. While future blog posts will detail our adventures, this one is about the typical foods of the “Ticos,” which is what Costa Ricans call themselves.
First of all, they have lots of fruit available in Costa Rica. It is sold in markets and by the side of the road, and is eaten plain or made into juice in a blender (often thinned out with water). We had coconut water, blackberry juice, mango juice, tamarind (don’t drink too much, it is a laxative), cas, and guanabana. Also, a typical juice is mixed carrot juice and orange juice – a delicious combination!
On our drive from San José to Monteverde, our guide asked our driver to stop at a crate of mangoes at the end of a driveway. Our guide, Marco AKA “Tex,” bought some green mangoes from the woman who came out of her house once we’d stopped. He peeled them with his knife and sliced them up, distributing them to us. Green mangoes don’t taste like ripe ones, but they don’t taste bad. A little sour and peppery. Then the woman sent her son back to the house for some salt, and we tried the green mango slices dipped in salt. This is a common way of enjoying them, and it was very good! I can see the appeal of green mango pickles, which were described to us a few weeks ago by a woman we met at the science party.
For breakfast and lunch, Ticos often include rice and beans in their meal. The rice and beans are often accompanied by avocado, soft cheese, and fried plantain. If it is breakfast, there will be eggs. If it is lunch, there will be a piece of meat, chicken, or fish, plus a side salad often made with cabbage. The lunch meal is called “casado” which means “married.” We enjoyed this meal as breakfast several times each and lunch several times each, with my vegetarian husband substituting eggs or fried cheese for the meat at lunchtime.
The casado is always accompanied by Salsa Lizano, a condiment made in Costa Rica of vegetables, salt, spices, and sugar. It is tangy and very good on rice and beans, eggs, chicken, and other common foods. We made sure to bring a bottle back with us. It is possible to buy Salsa Lizano on Amazon.com, but it is pretty expensive for a bottle of sauce.
On the second day of our trip, my lunch was accompanied by a lemony slaw of cabbage and tomatoes. Unfortunately, I could not buy a recipe book at the hotel, but I found a similar recipe online and adapted it. The lemon juice “cooks” the tomatoes (like it does the fish in a ceviche, which they also serve in Costa Rica) and they taste good to me, unlike raw tomatoes usually do.
This is my homemade casado con vegetales (with vegetables) that I made for our first dinner at home. I fried fresh potatoes instead of plantains, and the cabbage-tomato slaw I made did not fit on the plate.