The Latin American Cuisine Experience
June 24 (Wednesday) World Cuisines - Central or South American
Central or South American cuisine are mostly derived from Spanish cuisine and the native variety of Indian cuisine. So what do we call their cuisine? I think it’s worthy to be called it as Latin American cuisine, a conglomeration of European Hispanic cuisine with native Indian cuisine flavors. The result is gastronomic and I can prove it to you with the food I ate, as seafarers in some of Latin countries I happened to visit for the past decade.
1. Ecuador - is the latest commonwealth nation of the United States of America; so , the currency being used is American dollar. With Filipinos and Chinese businessmen being there, we didn’t feel that we’re too far from the Philippines because we can easily understand the Spanish language (because were colonized, too). On March 6, 2003, when KLM commercial plane landed on Quito International Airport, our agent directed us to our service car immediately because our ship was already anchored at Port Esmeraldas anchorage, still five hours to travel. Our Filipino third officer whose more fluent in Spanish language talked with the drive about where we’re going to eat lunch. The driver stopped at the roadside eatery offering Ecuadorian dishes, boiled long grain rice and chicken with kidney beans and chili (pollo con chili). We traveled the snake-like and foggy high-altitude Ecuadorian road for the rest of the five hours until we reached the port around 5 o-clock in the afternoon. We waited for the tugboat service and we were ferried to the waiting Greek tanker vessel, M/T Athos 1 (a single-hulled ship). Since our charterer was government-owned, our ship always frequent the port bringing the crude oil in the US port in California (usually in Martinez county and Long Island, Los Angeles City). Every time we went ashore Esmeraldas, several local restaurants in la playa (beach) often offered us sopas con marinero or seaman’s soup (usually consists of fresh seafood catch from Ecuadorian sea.
2. Peru - Some of the crew went ashore for a taste of nightlife in Talara, Peru. I stayed onboard the ship together with the night watch duties on anchorage. The Greek chief mate had his girlfriend there, so, they had a night to remember (they told us). For the rest of us who were left in the ship’s anchorage, we passed the night by lowering our hooks and false baits. We luckily catched huge Peruvian squids (I wondered what to do with it-cook it with soy sauce or just grill it) and giant hermit crab (the crew don‘t like to eat it; they just posed for posterity).
3. Venezuela - The oil-rich country in South America which is also the home of many Miss Universe winners (aside from the fact that a dictatorship is in the offing because of President Cesar Chavez’ drastic decision to sequester port management from private sector). Well, as much as I hated this political scenario (because it happened in my country, Philippines more than 3 decades ago-during Marcos era), seafarers from around the world enjoyed going ashore because of the affordable Chinese food we could eat. Yes, fellow hubbers; there are many Chinese immigrants (mostly businessmen) in this Latin country investing mostly in oil exploration and food business. The ports we visited were Port Jose, Port Cabello, Port La Salina, Port Maracaibo and Port La Cruz, among others. Many Filipino skilled workers and engineers are working there. Special Bean dishes with chili sauce is also an attraction in every fastfood. In 2005, when our plane touched down the runway around 5 pm in Caracas International Airport, our agent billeted us to the hotel near the Port of La Cruz. We experienced a dinner with potato fries with avocado garnishing (I was craving for avocado-chili dip or guacamole) and platter of medium roasted beef, fried rice with shrimps and vegetable platter. We had a good night before embarking for another contract onboard ship the next morning. Lake Maracaibo have plenty of fresh fishes and shrimps. Local fishermen often trade their fresh catch in exchange of bread, bath soap, money or even working shoes and overalls we discarded already but still usable. But now, they’re not permitted to go near commercial ships for security reason.
4. Puerto Rico - Port San Juan was our first stop when my third ship discharged its cargo in 2003. It is a commonwealth nation of US so, many American businesses and establishments are apparent in the city. We had our fill with burger and French fries plus soft drinks in downtown. Last year, 2009, our ship just anchored just near the city but never allowed to go ashore as per ordered by the the US coast guard assigned in the vicinity.
5. Mexico - We had our provisions in the autumn of 2003 there in Veracruz after anchoring for 13 days (MT Athos 1). Our provision rooms were empty (literally) that I almost quarreled with my feisty captain. I was just promoted as a cook then; so the next 5 hours were spent carrying all the provisions mano y mano. To relax, we decided to go ashore and we found out a good bar and restaurant owned by a fellow Bicolano (Philippines) who had also a son working as seaman. We had our laughs when we noticed an old Greek assisting him speaking Tagalog (Filipino language). The story was this Greek (who's also a seaman) jumpshipped to Mexico because of love (the woman already separated from him). We had a bite of the famed tacos.
Postscripts: We also visited Colombia, Brazil and Panama. These were just few of the countries I happened to visit during my first decade as a seafarer. Although, the time is limited, the happy times (and the scary episodes, too) with the locals, mingling with them and getting familiar with their cultures were a humbling experience to me. I'm sure you'll agree that we always try to taste the local cuisine in every country we visited. It's the top on my list, too.
Meet Food Network Star Daisy Martinez c/o SimonSchusterVideos
The Distinct Latino Cuisine
I titled this hub as Latino cuisino but edited it for the last time; but here I am again, using the word I coined.
If you're fond of eating Mexican food or any other Latin American food, you'll find it so aromatic. It will still have an aftertaste even if you quench it with wine, beer or soft drinks.
Full of influences from any parts of the world, I like the maize-based food like the tortillas and the tamales which is being dubbed as main street food among Latin Americans. You try sofrito or the herb-based vegetable dish of sauteed or braised tomato, bell pepper, garlic and onion, and you'll agree with me. With all the aroma in the air, you'll be satisfied with just a bite or two of these native delicacies, whether you're in Ecuador, Colombia or Chile.
I like to drink aguas frescas or sa malamig or cold refreshments back home and cacao (hot chocolate drink we often make at home back in the Philippines). Leche flan is also available there, like in my country.
The famed menudo had a lowly beginning (pork intestines being cooked by slaves) but had been modified since then for a more savory taste.
The cornbread of Native American Indians is still present in their present cuisine. It is now incorporated in many Latin American resturants in the US.
Celebrating Hispanic Cuisine c/o CBS
Latin American Recipes and Dishes in the USA
Many are blogging, distributing and sharing recipes online about any interesting cuisine around the world. Many hubbers are going agog, including me to participate and win in Hubbalicious this June of 2010. So, here are some of my finds on Latin American cuisine that are being fused into North American cuisine.
- Squash and Kohlrabi Empanadas - Just buy pie crusts and fill it with seasonal vegetables, like cubed carrots, potatoes, green peas then fry.
- Blueberry Mojito Tea Bread - This is a quick bread with a twist.
- Pozole - This is a pork soup mixed with dried chili pepper, with chicken stock, and canned white hominy. It's truly Mexican!
- Quinoa - Most prized grain by the Incas in Peru and is now being appreciated by the Americans.
- Fajitas - Unleavened, flat round bread rolled with unique filling from ground meats to vegetables. Love it!
- Lengua - Usually beef tongue, but you can also use pig's tongue. Slices of beef tongue is sauteed with chili, garlic,onion, fresh tomatoes and corn for a more hearty and healthy meal.
Muy provitso, Latinos! Enjoy your meal, fellow hubbers!