Nicaraguan foods you need to try!

Nicaragua is known for its volcanoes and its historic sites, as highlighted in the article ‘Adventures in Nicargua, the Heart of Central America’, but also for its food and beverage culture.
We hope you are hungry because we are about to take your palette on a delicious journey of Nicaraguan food and beverages.

First you must try Nacatamales! Most people, rightly so, think about Mexico when you say ‘tamales’ but the Nicaraguan version is sure to surprise and delight. Probably best described as a corn pillow (maize dough), it is filled with potato, pork, rice and various other ingredients, depending of course which ‘abuelita’ (grandma) is making it. It’s then wrapped up in a banana leaf and cooked for around 5 hours. Exquisite flavours, that you can tell it’s been made with so much love and attention!

Another favourite local dish is Indio Viejo. The consistency is confusing, somewhere between a stew or a really thick soup, but the flavour is rich and tasty. It combines shredded beef, sour oranges (specific to Latin America), tomatoes, onions, peppers, achiote paste, and more, to make a satisfying meal that is worth the wait!

Often suggested as one of the cornerstones of Nicaraguan food, is a dish that originates from a mix between the indigenous, mestizos and afro-Nicaraguans, called Vaho (Baho). It is served with curtido, which is a cabbage and tomato salad, dressed with vinegar and lime juice. The salad tops the meat, along with yucca and plantains. The meat that is used can vary, but the most traditional and flavourful is using ‘cecina’, mouth-watering cured & smoked beef from the hind or ‘falda’ which is a brisket cut. The meat is salted then marinated in a mixture of sour orange, onions, garlic, sweet peppers, celery, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and other sumptuous spices. The meat is then placed on banana leaves inside a pot, which has a sealed lid and will cook for around 4 hours. Generally this is a very special Sunday dish to be shared with friends and family!

We could take a few days telling you all about Nicaraguan food since there is so much and it is so tasty. We’ve given you a few ideas and didn’t want to give it all away, but here are some other popular dishes that you must try when in Nicaragua! Perhaps at the local ‘Fritanga’ (family run food stands).

Gallo pinto – a classic rice and bean dish
– Caribbean rice and beans cooked in coconut milk
Quesillo – a tortilla with cheese, cream and onions soaked in vinegar
Vigorón – chicharrones (pork), curtido and yucca served in banana leaf
– Tostones – plantains smashed and fried twice

To go along with your Nicaraguan food there are also complimentary beverages. You might notice throughout all of Central America, there is good rum but Nicaraguan rum is one of the best. If you are a rum connoisseur you might be familiar with the name, Flor de Caña. It’s a brand of rum that isn’t only popular inside Nicaragua, but folks also want to get their hands on it in Europe, Australia, USA and the rest of Central America too. It’s currently the #1 exported brand of rum coming from Nicaragua! From ‘humble roots’ they say, the Pellas Family of Nicaragua have been producing this unique slow aged rum since about 1890 until the present day. There is quite a range, from cheaper types that are best to mix with a soda, through to 18 and 25 year old dark rums, that are best enjoyed neat. Whether Nicaraguans are celebrating a birthday or grieving at a funeral, you will generally find a bottle of Flor de Caña around.

Were you also aware that Nicaragua has their own delicious brand of Cola? Kola Shaler includes ingredients imported from the UK and is said to be lower in sugar and carbonation compared to other soft drinks. It’s best served in a ‘Nica Libre’. A shot of Flor de Caña and mixed with Kola Shaler and a dash of lime makes the perfect wee cocktail. A little sweeter than normal but it goes down as a real treat!

Other local drinks include:

Chicha de Maiz is a fermented beverage made from corn. There is quite a process to making Chicha de Maiz, normally a couple of days would be set aside to make a batch! Corn is left in water for quite a few hours so it softens. It is then drained and then ground to a paste. Add the paste to water and boil until the corn in cooked. It’s then sweetened, coloured and cooled to perfection! Generally a red color. Chicha de Maiz is quite delicious, refreshing and filling! Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions can be found and for fun is often flavored using various essences, such as banana or raspberry.

Brazil may have their caïpirinhas, Cubans their mojitos and Peruvians their pisco sours but Nicaragua has their own drink called a ‘Macua’. Although it didn’t make its appearance until 2006, it is now cemented as their national drink. Made with all local ingredients, it’s a sweet, refreshing treat made of Flor de Caña rum (of course), guava juice, lemon juice, sugar and ice! Salud!

Gaubul is a typical drink found on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua. The drink is created from green bananas and coconut water. Green plantains are cooked and then mashed in water. Add milk and coconut water, and a touch of sugar to taste. Mix all ingredients well and serve for a tropical explosion of the tastebuds.

Another tasty concoction is Arroz con piña, literary meaning rice with pineapple in Spanish. Using rice in a drink might sound a bit odd, but it is delicious. The drink can be served both with and without Alcohol. In Nicaragua it is common to add a generous dash of Flor de Caña for flavour. This is primarily done when enjoying the drink in the evenings while socializing.

West Adventures will take you to local Fritangas and eateries for Nicaraguan food and beverages on our “Heart of Central America” and “Volcanoes and Vistas of MesoAmerica” tours.

Buen provecho chicos!

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