When asked about Costa Rica’s gastronomy the first thing that comes to mind is the most popular dish, the “Casado” the typical dish that includes white rice, black beans, meat (chicken, fish, pork or red meat) and a small salad and perhaps the famous “gallo pinto” (rice and beans mixed together and flavored with different natural spices) also come to mind, but not every dish in Costa Rica is about rice and beans, although we have to admit we love the combination and it is the base of our diet.
Here are some Costa Rican dishes everyone should try:
1) Olla de Carne: This delicious dish does not involve any rice or beans. It is basically a beef stew, a delicious dish perfect for rainy days or to get rid of a bad hangover. Olla de carne is prepared with fresh vegetables and although the combinations vary depending on the preferences of the chef it usually includes potato, carrot, plantain, yuca, chayote, ayote (pumpkin), corn, and of course plenty of tender beef.
2) Patacones: As part of a main meal or as a snack, patacones are also served in other countries such as Puerto Rico and Colombia, and it’s basically flattened deep fried plantains, usually served with refried beans, “pico de gallo” (tomato, onion, cilantro), or guacamole.
3) Sopa Negra: The black bean soup is a highly nutritious and a delicious dish, perfect for those on a diet or following a vegetarian regimen, but anyone can enjoy it, usually served with a hardboiled egg and cilantro.
4) Picadillo de arracache: Picadillo means finely chopped and Costa Ricans love serving different kinds of picadillos, among them the arracache is one of the most unique ones, a delicious flavor difficult to find anywhere else. Arracache (arracacia or arracacha in English) is a root vegetable it is usually mixed with meat, garlic and onion and the result is a delicious picadillo served with tortillas as a “gallo” (anything served on a corn tortilla is a gallo in Costa Rica). Also try picadillo de papa (potato and meat or chorizo) and picadillo de chayote, both delicious alternatives.
5) Chifrijo: Ok, we tried to keep the rice and beans out of the equation but simply couldn’t. Chifrijo can be served as a main meal, but it is very common to get it at bars to go along with your Imperial beer. Chifrijo brings together, white rice, large kidney beans, chicharron (pork meat), pico de gallo (tomato, onion and cilantro with lime juice) and sometimes avocado or sour cream, this is all served in layers on a small bowl and the combination is amazing.
6) Tamales: Mostly served during Christmas time, tamales can be a meal on their own, Costa Rica Tamales are made from corn dough prepared with different spices and a little fat and are filled with many different ingredients, rice, bell pepper, shredded pork or chicken, wrapped in banana leaves, tied with string into squares, and boiled.
7) Cheese tortillas: “chorreadas” which are sweet corn tortillas served with sour cream, arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) are also part of the day to day menu of Costa Ricans.
For dessert the arroz con leche, or Cajetas some of the most representative of Costa Rican cuisine.