At first glance we thought Espumilla, sold from carts in street corners throughout Ecuador, was an icy treat, but it turns out that is all an illusion. Espumilla (which means “foam” in Spanish) is actually a meringue made from egg whites, sugar and guava juice – served at room temperature. How’s that for a trick? Espumilla is often displayed in huge vats (as seen below), and then is scooped into typical ice cream cones to munch on while you explore the city. Espumilla requires few ingredients, and can be made at home. Laylita’s Recipes, a site with tons of great Ecuadorian recipes, has a simple recipe for Espumilla, of you have guavas on hand.
Tag Archives: Ecuador
When we were visiting La Unica (1515 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL) in Chicago we were intrigued by their milkshakes / licuados. They had some pretty exotic flavors: mango, mamey, blackberry, papaya, passion fruit, guanabana, and one we had not seen before – lulo. Turns out lulo is one of the most popular fruits in Colombia and Ecuador (where it is called naranjilla). The outside of the lulo looks like an orange, but the inside is green with seeds like a tomato! The flavor is a bit citrusy with a touch of pineapple, and really tasty. A popular way to have lulo is in a drink with lime and sugar called lulada. We have also since seen a lulo licuado at Brasa Roja (3125 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL) in Albany Park. If you see it – definitely give lulo it a try!
Day of the Dead/All Souls’ Day is called Dia de Los Difuntos in Ecuador, and is celebrated with little bread figurines called Guaguas de Pan in Spanish or T’anta Wawas in the Quechua language. Popular throughout the Andean countries of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, these cute little bread figures are given to friends and family on All Souls’ Day, and may also be placed at the grave of loved one. The bread is a sweet yeast bread similar to Mexico’s Pan de Muerto, but what really makes them stand out are their colorful decorations. Que Vida Rica has a recipe for Ecuadorian-style Guaguas. In Bolivia the holiday is locally known as Taque Santun Arupa, and this Bolivian recipe is made with quinoa flour! In Ecuador, the bread is typically served alongside Colada Morada, a drink made with purple corn flour and berries.
“Quesadilla” is one of those words that tricks you into thinking you know what it means, but then you go somewhere new and turn out it means something totally different. We knew what quesadilla meant in the US, a tortilla with melty cheese, whereas in Mexico City it was a slightly different thing, often deep-fried! However, in Ecuador, “quesadilla” means yet a third thing: a pentagonal shaped pastry filled with a savory-sweet baked cheese feeling. It reminded us of the Portuguese pastry, the queijada, which also has a savory/sweet crumbly cheese filling. These quesadillas were brought to us direct from Quito by my cousin’s parents from the Panaderia y Pasteleria San Juan in Quito. The Quesadillas were really tasty – and we came to learn that they are one of the emblematic treats of Ecaudor – so we are really glad we got to have a taste from the source. Quesadillas have been made at the San Juan bakery since 1935, and are now an integral part of the cuisine of Quito. Here is a recipe for Ecaudorian quesadillas, using queso fresco (make sure to use an unsalted cheese).
Fanesca is a traditional Ecuadorian soup that is only eaten in the week before Easter. Fanesca is a heavy soup filled with vegetables and grains (lima beans, fava beans, lentils, corn, pumpkin, squash, quinoa, plantains and more), many of which are only regionally available in the Spring. I suspect Brazilian and Portuguese palates would appreciate this dish due to the inclusion of salted cod, which needs to be soaked for 24 hours to make the soup stock. Laylita’s Recipes has a good history and recipe for Fanesca. Calvin Trillian has a longer story for the New Yorker about his experiences sampling Fanesca as a foreigner living in Cuenca, Ecuador
Being able to say anything I wanted to in Spanish before the moment had passed was what I’d been daydreaming about. I was thinking of the day when my response to a particularly good fanesca (the only kind of fanesca I’ve ever experienced) would no longer be limited to “delicious” or “very tasty, thank you.” I could envision myself pushing back from the table and making a statement to the waiter that was as complex as the dish itself—something like “I can’t take leave of this glorious establishment without saying, in utmost sincerity, that the fanesca I’ve just had the honor of consuming made my heart soar, or at least go pitter-patter, and I want to emphasize that each and every bean had a valiant role to play in what was, when all is said and done, a perfectly blended and modulated work of art.” In that daydream, the waiter is so impressed by my eloquence that he offers me seconds. I decline, with a short speech that reminds him of something he once read in a story by Jorge Luis Borges. [The New Yorker]
4212 N Milwaukee Ave # 14
Chicago, IL 60641-1640
Our journey to La Peña in Albany Park was uncharacteristically epic. What ought to have been a short 20 minute trip took almost an hour and a half due to forces (in addition to rush hour traffic) that we could not quite pin down. In any case, we arrived abysmally late to dine with my cousins, who were meeting us there. Fortunately, while waiting they were offered a bowl of plantain chips with two kinds of salsa. Upon arrival, we were impressed by the cute, polished wood interior and the vast potato-laden menu (the eaters love carbs). For appetizers we ordered a Humita ($2.95), an tamale-like creation, and Patacones, fried plantains ($2.95). Plantains are one of our favorite things about Caribbean and Latin American cuisines, and we wished the plantain chip/fry would find a renaissance, much as the sweet potato fry has. We rounded out our appetizer order with the Tortilla de Papa ($ 2.95) a potato pancake stuffed with cheese, and topped with peanut sauce. By this point we could tell that Ecuadorians did indeed love their carbs.
For mains, L ordered the Vegetarian Llapingacho ($12.95) which was a potato pancake topped with peanut sauce and a fried egg. Alongside the pancake came a veritable garden of avocado, a green salad, plantains and rice. Even tucked into the side of the plate was a humita. Holy portions! The Llapingacho seemed like a bigger version of the Tortilla de Papa, with the same cheese filling and peanut sauce, which was a little disappointing, but all of the elements on the plate came together to enhance the pancake, even the slightly runny egg, which I am not usually a fan of. For his main course, M ordered the Fritanga ($13.95), a dish of pan-fried pork with sweet plantains, white hominy and corn. The pork was bit fatty for his taste, but still had great flavor. He was especially excited by the appearance of ‘big corn’ or choclo kernels mixed in with the hominy on the plate – a staple of Peruvian food. The portions at La Peña are outrageous, and totally gut busting, so I would definitely say you get what you pay for.
Right in the back of the restaurant was a small stage, which was being fitted with amps and microphones as we ate. At around 7 the live music started, and a live a band played Salsa Romantica hits from the likes Eddie Santiago. They were actually pretty good, the only problem was that the music was a bit loud, but we knew that coming in, so no big surprise. Our first foray into Ecuadorian food was deemed a success. It’s kind of the heartier sister of the more cosmopolitan Peruvian food, and if you are feeling the need to Carbo-load, you know you’ve found the right place.