Bridget Gleeson writer + illustrator

Things we ate in Ecuador

A week of gourmet meals on a yacht in the Galapagos – plus a week of cevicheria-hopping in Quito?

I’m still recovering.

When you travel frequently, everything you see reminds you of something else.  (As in, ‘don’t these hills remind you of San Francisco?’ or ‘this lake looks just like that one where we went boating in the Alps!’) I kind of hate this tendency to compare. I wish I could just look at a new place for what it is instead of associating it with another destination. I guess we do it because it helps us put a foreign destination into familiar terms.

I’ve never been to Ecuador before, so I didn’t have any particular expectations for the cuisine. Of course, I started comparing the food and drink to cuisine I do know.

Freshly squeezed juices made with exotic fruits I’ve never heard of? Reminds me of Brazil. Citrusy ceviche topped with cilantro? Reminds me of Chile. Simple cuts of steak, chicken, fish and vegetables on the grill? Reminds me of Argentina. Rice, beans and deep-fried plantains? Reminds me of Nicaragua (thank God! I love Nicaraguan food, unglamorous as it is, but I’ve never seen a Nicaraguan restaurant outside the country itself.)

With Latin American cuisines, of course, there’s a lot of overlap – several cultures claiming to have invented a dish, several claiming to make the very best version of that dish. Here’s my Ecuadorian round-up!


Ceviche & deep-fried plantains with fresh lemonade at Cebicheria Manolo in Quito…                  And later on the Evolution yacht.

Ecuadorian ceviche is soupier than others I’ve had in South America – and it’s served with crispy popcorn! (Of course, eager eater that I am, I assumed the popcorn was an appetizer – I finished it all before the ceviche came out. The waiter laughed and brought me more popcorn.)

 Sanduche de pernil. Quito’s favorite hand-carved ham sandwich.

Choclo frito (fried corn) with chorizo and queso de campo (local cheese.) This was sinfully delicious.

Locro, a kind of corn-based stew found all over Latin America. I greatly prefer Ecuadorian locro to others I’ve had because it’s lighter, features more potatoes – and they add cheese and avocado. (The version above on the right also had pork rinds, which I’d gladly omit, there’s no need to add meat products to this already perfectly savory dish.)

Asado ecuatoriano. Grilled fish, steak, chicken, vegetables and rice in the Galapagos.

Trucha grillada con ajo (grilled trout caught in the mountain stream, with garlic, in the highlands outside of Quito, near Papallacta)

A breakfast with tropical fruits on the Evolution yacht, Galapagos…                       and breakfast with jugo de mora (blackberry juice) in Quito.

And that’s not all they do with fruit!

Because I’m a bottomless pit, I think I’ll top off the meal with some homemade fruit ice cream (on the yacht)

or perhaps a margarita de maracuyá (passionfruit margarita, at a cocktail bar in Quito.)

I’d like to say I’m taking it easy, food-wise, now that this trip is over. But who are we kidding. I actually went back to the USA and immediately made some Ecuadorian-style fish and maracuyá cocktails for my brother. I also made him re-watch the BBC’s Galapagos documentary with me. He was a very good sport.

[You, too, can make your brother spend an evening with you! Check out these how-to links on delicious Ecuadorian food & drink: Fatty Bloom is the entertaining food blog of my friend Vanessa, an art conservator who’s spent extended time working in Ecuador. She writes about some of her favorite dishes – and how to recreate them with US ingredients. There’s also a great variety of Ecuadorian food ideas at Laylita’s Recipes.]