What even is Ecuadorian food?
That’s what I was asking myself as I decided on my next stop on the Colinary Tour. Most of the cooks at the restaurant I work at are Ecuadorian and they suggested I try Chimborazo in Northeast Minneapolis. Little geography lesson here: Ecuador is located in the northwestish corner of South America and is defined by three very different regions.
The Amazon in the east of the country and the pacific coastline in the west are broken up by the northern parts of the Andes mountain range. These differences in topography create equal differences in cuisine. Common foods in the jungle region are the yuca, or cassava, a a starchy root that is usually fried, as well as many types of fruits. The pacific coast is defined by seafood including shrimp, oysters, tilapia, tuna and many others. Chicken, beef, pork and guinea pig are common in the lowlands near the coast as well as in the mountainous regions. Potatoes are a staple in the mountainous areas too.
Natalie and I arrived to Chimborazo not necessarily knowing what to expect, given it was each of our first times eating Ecuadorian food. The restaurant was a small, square stucco building that stood alone on the street corner. It was quiet and unassuming. I probably would breeze right past it any other day of the week.
But we walked in and the silence was immediately replaced by the boisterous noise of worker bees on lunch breaks. The one-room dining area was filled to the brim with tables, and the noise bounced off all four walls. To be honest, it smelled like a Chinese restaurant at first notice. I think the fried rice dishes were to blame for that.
We sat down and ordered Muchin de Yuca (fried Yuca or Cassava with cheese), Seco de Carne (beef stewed in peppers, onions, garlic and passionfruit, served with rice and plaintains) and Chaulafan (Ecuadorian fried rice with pork, chicken, shrimp and egg).
The cassava was interesting but delicious. It had the spongy texture of angel food cake on the inside and was a perfect golden brown on the outside. My Chaulafan was honestly like a house fried rice at an Asian restaurant but with a few small but important differences. The eggs were special. They were fried eggs, but they fell apart in your mouth and were so soft. It was almost like cotton candy they were so delicate. And the inclusion of green peppers added a nice change of flavor. Natalie’s beef was served in hearty chunks and were juicy and easy to chew. The steamed rice was standard, and while I didn’t eat any on account of I hate them, she said the red onions were flavored wonderfully.
All in all, it was a delicious lunch. It was my first real step out of my food comfort zone being that I’ve never had Ecuadorian food before. With Italian food and Vietnamese food – you kind of know what’s coming but with Chimborazo, I was surprised and pleased.
p.s. They have some pretty nice beer and wine specials, too.