Eat Ecuador – Everything Bananas in Ecuador – The Best Banana Dishes
Read about this series here: the Eat Ecuador Food Series
The Banana Dishes in Ecuador that will Light your Taste Buds Up!
Bananas are one of the most important crops in Ecuador. Some might say they are THE most important crop. They’re the second biggest export item the country has (the first is oil), and they’re also an incredible ingredient in Ecuadorian cuisine.
The Importance of Bananas in Ecuador
Ecuador’s coast has the perfect climate and soil for banana growing all year long. This has led to Ecuador becoming the largest banana exporter in the world -- 30% of the global banana supply comes from Ecuador. Bananas account for 13% of Ecuador’s total exports. The majority of these exported bananas are Cavendish bananas. They’re the bananas you know and love. 95 percent of all bananas sold commercially are Cavendish. After trying a few varieties of bananas, I can’t argue with the Cavendish’s popularity. It’s the best banana in the world. However, this wasn’t always the case. Up until the 1950s, the banana of choice was the Gros Michel. Unfortunately, it was practically wiped out by a fungal disease called the Panama disease. This could have been a huge problem, however, the Cavendish banana, which was immune to the disease, was luckily there to take its place.
But what happens if the Cavendish is wiped out?
Well, as of now there isn’t a banana that would fill the giant hole that an extinct Cavendish would leave. But worse than that, the Panama disease has come back. The fungus that the Cavendish was immune to has adapted and is now responsible for taking a huge chunk out of the banana game in Southeast Asia, where bananas were first cultivated. For now, the disease hasn’t hit Latin America, but scientists are saying it’s inevitable. If in fact the disease hits Ecuador, it would be a huge loss to the Ecuadorian economy.
Banana dishes in Ecuador
You can thank the Afro-Ecuadorians for most of Ecuador’s banana dishes. Bananas were brought over to Central and South America by the Spanish, however, the Africans that were also brought over by the Spanish, but as slaves, had much more experience in cooking with bananas. They adapted their home dishes, and created some new ones.
Let’s have a look at some of the more popular banana based dishes of Ecuador.
- Bolon de Verde -- In English, ‘ball of green’ -- the green refers to the banana type used, which is the most popular banana to cook with in the country. This is a very popular breakfast in Ecuador. Green bananas are cooked until soft and then mashed up and made into a sort of dough. It’s then formed with chicharrón (fried pork), or cheese, or both into a ball about the size of a tennis ball. It’s fried and deliciousness ensues. Nowadays, you can find this with all sorts of tasty ingredients. I’ve tried seafood versions, mushrooms, chorizo, and chicken. Absolutely try this dish for breakfast in Ecuador. You can find the best place to get it in Quito by getting my guide to Ecuadorian food.
- Tigrillo -- The name means ‘small tiger’ but it refers to the Tigrillo Margay, a type of wild cat in the Amazon. I believe the idea behind this name comes from the fur pattern of the cat. The look of this dish is kind of similar to the leopard-like spots of the Margay. Tigrillo is kind of a deconstructed version of bolon de verde. It’s basically the same ingredients but instead of a deep-fried ball it’s sort of a stir-fry of green banana, fried pork, and cheese. You can find this in every market in Ecuador. It’s just as popular of a breakfast as bolon de verde.
- Maduro con queso -- ‘maduro’ means mature or ripe. It’s used to describe a certain type of banana, one that’s often grilled or fried whole. In this case, it’s stuffed with cheese first. You can find these in the streets, in parks, and in some cafes. It’s a really tasty snack. The cheese is a little sweet. Put some hot aji sauce on it to make a perfect balance of flavors.
- Patacones -- These are double deep-fried plantain slices. They’re crispy and a bit sweet. Usually you’ve find these as a side dish, like with encocado (shrimp in a coconut sauce).
- Chifles -- You may have had these before. They’re essentially banana chips. Sometimes they’re made with plantains, sometimes with the sweeter bananas. You’ll be surprised how often a small bowl of chifles, maybe some popcorn, and possibly some tostados (roasted corn) will end up on your table. It’s a nice little appetizer.
- Caldo de Bolos de Verde -- The soup version of bolon de verde. “Soup of balls of green (banana)” -- basically a soup with a ball of green banana in it. You can get various versions of this dish, but I highly recommend the seafood soup from Equaviche, a popular ceviche restaurant in Quito that’s within walking distance to the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal. Their seafood version is packed with shrimp, octopus, fish, and clams. The bolon de verde in it is top-notch -- packed with fried pork, cheese, peppers, onions, and amazing flavors. In the soup it turns soft, but it doesn’t fall apart. It’s like a ball of stuffing. The broth also adds so much to it. It has a slight peanut taste to it. Squeeze a bunch of lime in and you’re in heaven. This dish costs $10.50 at Ecuaviche. That’s steep but it was worth it. You be able to find cheaper versions of this dish around Ecuador, especially along the coast.
Get My Quito Food Guide!
I love to share the places I find and the foods I eat. If you are headed to Ecuador, be sure to download my guide to Quito’s best food. It’ll show you the top 10 dishes to try and recommend a place to get them where you can have a local experience. NO OVERPRICED TOURIST RESTAURANTS. This is where the locals eat. Where they find delicious food for a good price in a authentic atmosphere.
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