Manabi Cuisine: The Best Excuse for Visiting Ecuador

Manabi cuisine is one of the most recognized in Ecuador. The unique taste of the food from Ecuador’s coastal Manabi Province results from the combination of ancestral indigenous knowledge and Spanish methods. These practices and knowledge have been handed down for generations in front of clay ovens filled with wood – as is still done today in small restaurants on the sides of roads in this area.

The diversity of ingredients is one of the keys to Manabi cuisine

The diversity of ingredients is one of the keys to Manabi cuisine

The diversity of ingredients is one of the keys to Manabi cuisine, though undoubtedly green bananas are the stars in Manabi kitchens. These are prepared in every way imaginable: One by serving them grilled with cheese and “brown salt” (salt mixed with a variety of ingredients, such as roasted peanuts and corn flour). Another way is to prepare bananas with maní quebrado (crushed peanuts” (grown right there on the coast and having both a sweet and salty taste). Green bananas are also the basis of traditional bolones and empanadas, and they’re used with corviche, a delicious plantain dumplings stuffed with seafood or shrimp.

Shellfish is obviously the basis of many dishes of Manabi cuisine, although its flavor — according to the lovers of coastal food — is very special and distinct in Manabi. Prepared with local ingredients (such as peanuts, corn, cassava, pumpkin and cocoa), these are coated with the renowned Manabita seasoning to give them an original and delicious flavor.

Other plates, like seco de gallina de campo (range chicken stew), viche, and corn and cassava tortillas, are among the most desired in this province, which has great potential for becoming one of the culinary centers of the continent.

Then too, let’s not forget tonga (a dish that includes rice, cooking bananas and chicken, all smothered in peanut sauce). Standing out for its originality, it is served wrapped in a banana leaf. The origins of tonga date back to the era of the rubber workers and early settlers, according to research from Manabi historian Enrique Delgado. Farmers who went deep into the jungle in search of rubber would bring these lunches wrapped in banana leafs and smoked to retain the flavor of their ingredients and dressings. The preparation of this dish (demonstration in Spanish) has survived time, as it’s still very popular in Manabi and continues to be served in homes and restaurants – on occasion even appearing in offices in its original banana leaf packaging.

As for Manabi sweets, these deserve their own separate chapter. Famous throughout the country, these delicacies attract tourists and gourmets throughout all seasons; however, people are especially drawn here during the holiday season, when schools let out in the highlands and thousands of families head for the beach.

Rocafuerte, known as the "Sweetest town in Ecuador," is located in Manabí province

Rocafuerte, known as the “Sweetest town in Ecuador,” is located in Manabí province

The town of Rocafuerte is especially well known for the products in its candy stores, whose aromas fill the streets of this small coastal village. Small treats with whimsical names like troliches, moyo eggs, conitos, rolitos, stuffed lemon, coconut candy, rompope, bizcochuelos alfajores ll display their colors from the local shop windows. In Rocafuerte alone, there are dozens of candy stores producing about 300 varieties of sweets. In fact, the preparation of these delicacies is one of the most important economic activities in this town.

So, for those people unfamiliar with Ecuador’s Manabi Province — but also for those who’ve already enjoyed its lavish beaches and scenery — sampling the flavors of Manabi cuisine is a good excuse for a first time visit or for coming back again.

One Comment

  1. Ah, you are so right about the food of Manabi! It’s incredible and affordable. And don’t forget encebollado and corviche! Now I’m quite hungry, thanks to this post!

    Thanks for the link on the viche!

    Lisa/Playamart

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