Ecuadorians like to eat all the time. They don’t follow strict rules about it either. There are no set breakfast, lunch or dinner hours, and most locals eat when they are hungry, which seems to be all day long. If you stroll through Old Quito during the hours of 10am and 4pm, you will see street vendors selling soups, hole-in-the-wall establishments making fresh tortillas, and casual cafes always packed with snackers. In fact, whatever formal sit-down restaurant there are in Quito, seem to cater mostly to visitors. The locals prefer cheap eats on the go that are satisfying and similar to home cooked meals.
Here are some of the sights from Quito’s street food scene…
My entire concept of “soup” changed after visiting Ecuador. Here you eat soup off the street. Vendors cook locro de papa (potato soup with potatoes, onion, garlic, cumin, achiote and cheese), and calso de Manguera (made with pork intestines, stuffed with blood and rice), at home, carry it into the markets in buckets and sell it by the cup to busy workers. Every family has their own style of preparing these traditional Ecuadorian recipes. The regulars know which ones they favor and often wait for their lunch to arrive in the city. Potato salad and ceviche are other two famous bucket dishes found especially in the historic Cruz Verde (green cross) neighborhood.
Seafood is another important ingredient in Ecuadorian cooking. With access to the Pacific Ocean, lakes and rivers, there is always an abundance of fresh shrimp, fish, clams, mussels and even oysters. Where else in the world can you stop for couple of oysters on the half shell on your way to the office?
Lunch is generally the main meal of the day in Ecuador. Restaurants in Old Quito advertise lunch specials “Almuerzos” for $1-2, which include soup and traditional entrees such as Arroz con carne (rice with meat) or Fritadas (roasted pork with potatoes).
For your next backyard party remember that plantains are not always fried. You can grill them whole on charcoal till they are slightly charred. Makes for a delicious and healthy side dish.
Street food doesn’t alway have to be unhealthy. In Quito, you will find fruit vendors selling fresh cut watermelons, pineapples and whatever else is in season. Grab a cup of fruit cocktail snack just for a few pennies.
School kids line up at food stalls in the afternoon just to snack on Tortilla De Tiesto, a corn pancake made fresh to order. It is usually had with coffee or hot cocoa.
If Italians love gelato, Ecuadorians can beat them to Espumilla consumption any time of the day. It looks like ice cream, but is actually a dessert made with freshly whipped meringue cream and fruit extract, such as guava or passion fruit. The best part about it is that it doesn’t melt so street vendors sell it from their baskets, scooping out Espumilla in cups and cones.
If you want to go on a guided food tour of Quito, Metropolitan Touring offers one-day and half-day walking tours.