Food and Cooking in Cuenca, Ecuador – Part 1

by | Feb 17, 2022 | Ecuador | 1 comment

One of the many challenges you will come across when you move abroad is your first trip to the supermarket.

You think you can buy items by sight, which may be possible with some produce. But, to my surprise, many of the products you get ARE NOT what they appear to be on boxes and cans. They may be similar but with a very different flavor.

One of my first lessons from a fellow expat was that there is no tomato sauce per se in Ecuador. Salsa de tomate is ketchup. However, pasta de tomate is tomato paste. And those types of condiments are generally sold in bags, not bottles or cans which is really better for recycling. Canned tomatoes are available and most of us expats buy those and puree them for tomato sauce.

Google translate to the rescue

Even the cuts of meat can be difficult to recognize and, of course, the name on the sticker is in the native language. This is one of those times when Google translate on my smartphone has come in very handy. I am able to type in the product name on the label and it has usually been able to give me the name of the product in English.

With that hurdle over, the next challenge comes in place. Many, and I mean many, of the items I was able to get in the U.S., are just not available abroad.

So that brings me to the real subject of cooking abroad. Learn to improvise!! We are lucky here in Ecuador that we have a Facebook Food and Cooking Exchange. When we need just one more item to complete a recipe we can post and ask other expats if they know where we can find it OR offer a way to make it using the ingredients we have available here.

I am making many more dishes (including baked goods) from scratch these days and enjoying it! Now that I am retired I actually have the time to do things that take a bit longer. The next challenge comes in learning what all the different fruits and vegetables are that are available in this beautiful country.

Flavorful fruits and vegetables

A trip to a local mercado will fascinate you with the wide variety of some of the most unique and delicious fruits and vegetables I have ever eaten. Then you get to find out what each one is called and how it is eaten or used in cooking.

I must admit that even the fruits and vegetables I was used to eating in the U.S. pale by comparison in flavor to those I have had here. It truly is healthy eating at its best.

Stay tuned. More blogs to come on cooking in Cuenca, Ecuador, what it is like to cook at an 8,500-foot elevation and the definition of substitute and improvise.

Please post your comments and as always…Bienvenidos!

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