Typical Ecuadorian breakfast is Tortillas de Maiz (thin corn pancakes), Llapingachos (potato croquette with onion, cheese, butter and olive oil) or Locro (mashed potatoes, avocados and chilies) or Mashed Sweet Potatoes or Yam and fruits such as bananas, papayas, mangoes, avocados or oranges. “Ecuador is known for its fabulous exotic fruits. There are plenty of cantaloupes, passion fruits, Naranjitta (oranges), strawberries, black berries, pineapple, little Orito bananas, lime and lemon,” says Juan Leon. “Ecuadorians love to eat fruits all the time, especially bananas. Fruits are eaten fresh or mixed with milk, cream and sugar as dessert. One of Ecuador’s main agro-industrial products are fruit juice concentrates, canned fruits and vegetables”, he says.
Lunch is Arroz Napa (steamed rice), Menestra (heavy soup made with vegetables and legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas, lima beans or Caraotas Negras (black beans). There are Empanadas (wheat turnovers with cheese or vegetable filling), Choclo Al Horno (Baked Andean Corn Dish), Fried Potatoes with Chilies or Potato and Lima Bean Salad. Vegetables such as heart of palm, sweet pepper, okra, artichoke, broccoli, asparagus, peas or green beans are cooked in Tamarillo (tree tomatoes) onion and olive oil.
“Ecuador’s specialty are soups,” says Juan Leon. “Every family cooks at least one variety for every meal: Gaspacho, Barley Soup, Avocado Soup, Bean Soup, Potato and Melon soup, Lentil Soup….” Gaspacho alone has so many varieties and so has Bean Soup. In fact, there are as many varieties of bean soup dishes as there are varieties of beans and grains. In Ecuador, there are at least 30 or 40 popular varieties- -excluding the combinations you can make with each!”, Juan Leon says. For desserts, there is a delicious range of sweetened pastries, custards and bread; milk and sugar desserts like Canonigo, Bunnuelos, Churros and Glorias”.
“I think if one should only maintain a diet that is dependent on grains, beans, fruits, vegetables and milk like the traditional native Ecuadorian Indian diets, then there is no question of deficiency in anything. By nature, the Indians know how to balance it out- -protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals- -perhaps not in the academic standard but culturally.” For example in the Chimborazo Mountain (Ecuador’s highest), the sacred plant of the Inca Indians called ‘Quinia’ still grows there. It has very high protein content and is an important local food. Also in the provinces of Pinchincha, Sucumbios, Azuay, Esmeraldas, Guayas and others, there are many types of vegetation- -legumes, fruit trees, root crops cultivated by the Indian communities. I cannot mention them all. There are so many. Among the inhabitants of Vilcahamba in Loja Province, famous for its exceptionally healthy climate, it is not unusual to find individuals aged 120 years old or more!” he says.
…it is not unusual to find individuals aged 120 years old or more!