Coffee, Chocolate, Plantain, Oh My! A Ghanaian in Ecuador

Years ago when I wrote down my bucket list of places I wanted to visit, Ecuador was not on the list. I figured that if I ever had the opportunity to make my first visit to Latin America, it would probably be Brazil or Argentina or Peru… I was thinking about an epic yet authentic experience in one country that would represent my Latin America experience. Yeah right! It’s like visiting Egypt or South Africa or Zanzibar and calling that your “Africa” experience. I get it… It doesn’t work. But boy, was Ecuador eppppicc??!!

I had the opportunity to travel there in June 2016 for 10 days with a small group of people from different countries, visiting Ecuador for the first time and keen to learn about cacao/cocoa and chocolate-making. And get this, I didnt need a visa! In fact, with the exception of one or two countries, no one needs a visa for Ecuador. So, I was off to a good start even if no hablo espanol. I have to be honest though, I nearly pulled out of the trip given the magnitude of the earthquake that had occurred just a few weeks prior to my trip. In any case, Quito and Mindo (where I spent most of my time) were unaffected. There is so much I have to say about this trip. I will do that in a series of blogs. In this blog, I showcase a small taste of the glorious food on offer.

Food Market on Fleek!

Let me start with the food market I went to in Quito. Never seen anything like it. The colours, presentation, variety, texture, and freshness blew me away. I felt a little lightheaded at the sight of whole pigs roasting but it was still pretty cool. I tasted fruit I’d never even heard of such as the  “tree tomato”. It tastes like a tomato and a guava combined.

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I pity the fool who would dare to bargain with this serious mama.
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Pork, yellow rice and avo on the menu.
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Presentation, presentation, presentation…

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Side Dish? Patacones, please!

The cuisine was amazing. My favourite was the patacones (a plantain dish) which I ordered with nearly every meal I had. It is interesting how we (Ghanaians) and Ecuadorians have similar food crops like plantain and cassava (yucca) but cook them very differently. I was also struck by our commonality in being cacao/cocoa growers but in Ghana, we eat very little chocolate and certainly do not cook with chocolate. The Ecuadorians cook with chocolate – I had an amazing pollo con salsa de chocolate (chicken with chocolate sauce) among other things.

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Burger with a side of patacones (plantain)
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Sweet potato, chicken with chocolate sauce and a side salad
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Shrimp in garlic sauce, steamed vegetables and patacones
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This glass though! Pretty to look at but completely impractical – how do you hold it??
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The best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted

How do you like your coffee? Freshly Ground

What a treat to be able to make a cup of coffee from scratch using traditional methods. Coffee beans were plucked off the tree, soaked for a bit, shelled manually with a machine and dried. We then roasted the dried beans on an open flame, stirring frequently to make sure it didn’t burn. We left the roasted beans to cool – oh the aroma though! Then, we ground the beans, a little at a time, using a manual grinder. The ground beans went into a pot of hot water, strained and voila – the freshest cup of coffee you ever tasted. We did this outdoors on a beautiful cloudy day. Certainly, one of my best memories in Ecuador.

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The amazon-like feel of the town of Mindo. No filter.
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With friends taking turns to roast the coffee beans on open fire
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Yours truly helping to grind the coffee in the good old fashion way
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Good old fashion filtering
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The end product was delicious. Now thats a cup of coffee!

In a future blog, I will share more about my chocolate making experience in Mindo. Mindo is a breathtaking ecological paradise in the Andes Mountains of Northern Ecuador. I didnt have time to experience the Galapagos, which should be on your list if you have a chance to visit the country. I certainly plan to be back. A final tip – give yourself a day to acclimatize to the high altitude!

Peace and Love!

All photos are mine.

*A similar version of this blog (focusing on street photography in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, was published in a travel blog: ourvisions.wordpress.com  

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