Cooking Like a Panameño

I often tell people who I meet that one of the secrets to successful living in Panama and especially the campo, is adapting to cooking and eating what food is available.  Eating like a North American gets is a little expensive once the cost of imported food is tallied up.  Knowing what is worth paying import prices for and knowing what you can find that is equal in a non-imported brand comes with time and taste.

In the last week I’ve decided to branch out a bit and try to cook more dishes with a Panameño flair.  Panameños aren’t known for liking overly spiced food or even food that has a lot of flavour but with a few little additions it is  good.  We’re not big potato eaters although we do have them occasionally.  Brown rice, dried beans and dried lentils have become a large part of our diet.  We always have a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits available and we have a fresh salad every day.

We’re very lucky we have fantastic fish here thanks to our wonderful friends that help us keep the freezer stocked or that give us a piece of their fresh catch of the day.  The chicken and pork are very good but the beef, except for hamburger, leaves a lot to be desired.

This week I made a dish called Pollo de Guisado.  I found a recipe on another blog but I decided that I would find a different recipe as it had some canned ingredients that I didn’t have in the house.  When I looked around I noticed that almost every Latin American country has a version of this chicken stew.  It can be made with or without vegetables in it and is pretty easy to throw together.  The recipe I chose was from Food Network, it was simple and I had all the ingredients but the chicken in the house.  The bonus is that it doesn’t take long to make and doesn’t have a lot of fancy ingredients.  SU declared it a winner, and I guess that’s what counts.  Next time I may just add a few chunks of veggies to it and make it into a real chicken stew.

The harvesting of maize is beginning in the campo.  I think there is a couple of crops planted in a year and it seems to grow  quickly.  For only $1.00 I bought a bag of eight ears of corn.  It’s not the same as the delicious Taber Corn that we get at home but, the price is a lot more reasonable.  We were going to simply boil it or grill it on the barbecue but then my neighbor, who is Colombian and a wonderful cook, gave me a recipe for Panameño fritters that was so simple I had to try it.  SU pulled all the leaves and silk away and I washed the corn and cut it from the cobs.  I then put it in the blender with a bit of water, a bit of sugar and a pinch of salt.  Once it was all pulsed together I added just a little corn flour to thicken the batter just a bit.  We set a frying pan on the side burner of the barbecue with a smattering of oil and a few minutes later, voilà!  Little, delicious corn pancakes.  Panameño street food, little nuggets of deliciousness made at home.  And so addictive!

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My successes have inspired me to try a few more Latin American dishes and surprisingly, probably because of similar climates, there are a lot of dishes that I can find the ingredients for.   I still miss the apples from mi mamas apple tree but stretching myself in a culinary capacity is kind of fun and we’re not lacking for tasty food in the campo.

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About indacampo

You'll find me at https://indacampo.wordpress.com/ blogging about Panama...and other things.
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6 Responses to Cooking Like a Panameño

  1. shellmcc1106 says:

    Those look super yummy. I might have to try that with some corn here. We get corn for $0.50 a cob, but yours is a lot more reasonable.

    • indacampo says:

      I think I probably used a lot less sugar than they normally do here. They sure like their sugar! But yes, super easy to do.

  2. Kris says:

    The corn here isn’t sweet at all, and is used as another starch. your recipe looks very good though. I’ve been lucky that some local friends have taught me a bit about their cooking. I notice more cilantro, salt, and lots of sweets but we’ve had many things we like. You can’t go wrong with just simple stuff either with all the good, fresh ingredients we have here.

    • indacampo says:

      Yes, culantro and onions seem to be mainstays here. And I thought the corn looked a little starchy so I’m glad we did the fritters instead. And they were delicious!

  3. shellmcc1106 says:

    I wanted to let you know I tried the chicken recipe tonight. I added a few things – bay leaves, red pepper, mushrooms and capers. We really enjoyed it. Thanks for the link 🙂

    • indacampo says:

      Oh, fresh mushrooms. A luxury and expensive when we can find them. 🙂 Glad you liked it. I like it because tomatoes are plentiful and cheap here.

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