A Taste of Ecuador

I was lucky to have attended the All You Need Is Ecuador Press Conference yesterday. Oh! It was such a revelation. Ecuador is such a beauty. A unique place with universal appeal. The 8th most bio diverse country in the world. Whew!

Pro Ecuador, the Institute for the Promotion of Trade and Investment of the country, were such gracious hosts.  Consul General of Ecuador, Mumbai, Hector Cueva Jacome and Priscila Moscoso Meiller, Trade Officer were warm and ever willing to share information.

The cuisine sounded even more interesting. To a gourmand like me, the food has to be tempting. And it sounded extremely appetizing and varied. Most regions in Ecuador follow the traditional three course meal of soup, a course that includes rice and a protein, and then dessert and coffee to finish. Supper is usually lighter and sometimes consists only of coffee or herbal tea with bread. Wow! Sounded just like what I would enjoy. They also eat a lot of fish, shrimps and tuna in particular. Perfect, I thought.

We sampled Empanadas De Viento – A combination of the gooey cheese and onions inside a crispy fried empanada and topped with sugar. I relished them immensely, but could not help note the similarity between these and our own Rissois from Goa. These were definitely strongly reminiscent of Rissois. Those too are little envelopes, usually filled with prawns, onions and white sauce and deep fried. Of course there is no sugar on those. But there is no cause to be startled at the similarity, I thought. After all Rissois are delectable Portuguese turnovers, which we Goans have received as legacy and have incorporated in our cuisine.

Empanada De Viento

These empanadas de viento are the perfect breakfast or afternoon snack with a hot cup of black coffee, I was informed. And the good ‘ol Goan Rissois can be savoured anytime too.

The other dish we tried during lunch was exotic. Pescado encocado or fish with coconut sauce. One cannot go wrong with fish. Not at least where I am concerned. This Ecuadorian fish with coconut sauce, called pescado encocado, is a traditional coastal dish of fish seasoned with citrus and spices and then cooked in a sauce of cilantro, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and coconut milk. As I tasted the flavoursome sauce, subtle yet, with a pronounced flavor, I was once again reminded of our Goan fish preparations with coconut milk. Gosh! The similarities were too many.

Encocado de pescado

Our caldeen is on these lines. And our basic Goan fish curry too. Of course we use prawns as well apart from fish. But so do the people of Ecuador. I was told that one should ideally use fresh coconut to make the sauce. Just as we Goans do. Both the coconut water and grated coconut flesh, but if you are in a rush, use canned coconut milk for convenience. Ah! The short cuts in modern rushed times, which we all resort to.

Back in Ecuador, Pescado encocado is typically served with rice and fried ripe plantains. You can also serve it with patacones or green plantain chips instead of the sweet ripe ones.

I was transported to heaven after my Ecuadorian meal of rice and Pescado encocado. You too must try it. It is really simple to prepare.

 

Pescado encocado or fish with coconut sauce

Recipe courtesy Pro Ecuador.

Yield: For 4-6 people

Pescado encocado or fish with coconut sauce is an Ecuadorian coastal dish of fish seasoned with citrus and spices and then cooked in a sauce of cilantro, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and coconut milk.

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ lbs halibut or any other fresh fish, cut in medium size chunks
  • ¼ cup lime juice, from about 2 limes
  • Juice from 2 oranges
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 2 tbs sunflower or olive oil
  • 1 medium sized onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 4 roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 14 oz can of coconut milk
  • 3 tbs cilantro, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix the lime juice, orange juice, crushed garlic, cumin, paprika, coriander powder and salt in a small bowl.
  2. Marinate the fish chunks for 1 – 2 hours.
  3. Heat the oil to prepare a refrito or base for the sauce, add the diced onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and salt, cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat.
  4. Add the coconut milk to the refrito, mix it in well and cook for about 10 minutes, if you prefer a thicker sauce you can thicken the sauce by adding ½ tsp of tapioca starch or corn starch.
  5. Add the fish fillets, cover partially and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with rice and fried ripe plantains.
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