"Where in the World Wednesday" brings us today to the west coast of Costa Rica on the Nicoya Peninsula. Our guide today is Martha, who creates beautiful pottery in her studio in Costa Rica (see above for some of her pieces!). Martha moved to Costa Rica in 2005.
She told me that the Nicoya Peninsula is one of the 5 blue zones where people are said to live the longest on earth. The research conducted on the blue zones was shot in the mountains in this part of Costa Rica.
Martha was so kind to answer my questions about Costa Rica! I visited Costa Rica in 2007, but only a brief trip to Arenal and Tamarindo. But that was enough to whet my interest (and my appetite!) about Costa Rica...
(1) How would you describe "Costa Rican" cuisine, particularly in your area?
The Nicoya Peninsula is part of the Guanacaste province. Until it was annexed to Costa Rica in, I think 1824 it was a separate country and has a little different culture and cuisine. It could be compared to Texas in the US. It is a ranching area, where stick to your ribs food is customary.
(2) Are there any dishes that you think are traditionally Costa Rican?
Costa Rica is especially fond of chicken. They fix it many different ways. Typically very well cooked, we might call it overcooked. Cooked to death. Rice and beans with everything. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, with salsa, of course.
And for drinks, they usually have fruit juices. I especially like Tamarindo, it is fruity and sweet. Mixed fruit drinks are popular, using watermelon with citrus.
Here in Junquillal, to make money, some of the local ladies cook and sell door to door. I have tasted pastries that the locals truly relish and I can hardly stand to eat. Their idea of sweet is nothing like in the US, they use lots more cinnamon and less sugar.
Tamales are a big deal, made and shared at Christmas the way we do Christmas Cookies in the US. They are made with corn meal, meat in the center, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled till done.
(3) Do you have a favorite local dish or restaurant?
When I go to town, I love to eat at Rico Pollo Rico (Rich Chicken) where you get great fried chicken and fries. They always give you mayonnaise and ketchup for dipping. (?)
Another restaurant I like is a "tipica soda", meaning Costa Rican restaurant, called the Tortilla Factory. They serve great food with hand made tortillas cooked in an outdoor wood heated oven. The rest of the food is cooked inside the restaurant on wood fires. Huge pots full of rice, beans, chicken, beef, pork, vegetables and they like cheese on the side, of course sour cream and HOT salsa.
I lived in North Carolina for 35 years prior to moving to to Costa Rica. Fried food and "pulled" barbeque were the staple. Probably why I like my fried chicken here in Costa Rica. But miss the fried flounder you get at the fish camps in NC. I miss hush puppies, but the corn tortillas are great!
4) If you were putting together a food gift basket representative of Costa Rica for a friend that was visiting you from overseas, what would you include in it? (also assuming that none of the food items would go bad in the basket!)
Certainly would have to include coffee. The best I have ever tasted. There are several great brands, I like Rey in particular.
Bananas and pineapple are grown here and very cheap. But the favorite fruit among Costa Ricans is the orange. You can find them sold on street corners everywhere, with a man using an orange peeler, taking off only the orange skin, leaving the white part. They sell them in bags, peeled. You punch a hole and suck the juice out, squeezing it until finished. The skins are everywhere. When I first came here, I couldn't figure out what I was seeing on the beaches, and on the streets. But it beats plastic bottles littering the streets.
(5) Do you find that the food in Costa Rica has been greatly influenced by certain ethnicities? If so, which ones?
Typical Central American food, like in Mexico. I'm not sure though if that is influence, or normal for the continent.
(6) Where could you get a good meal and a drink for the equivalence of US$15 and what would you get?
I hear many speak about the great seafood they get locally at reasonable prices, less than $15 a person. A typical Costa Rican restaurant is very inexpensive. But international restaurants tend to be quite expensive. Here in Junquillal, a couple can spend as much as $175 for an Italian meal, which I heard tasted very good.
Thank you Martha for participating!