After spending a few months here, I feel like I can now give a general overview of the food in Nicaragua, or at least in Granada. Although pretty simple, I find it to generally be very good. I typically cook at home but do venture to a restaurant or eat at a market on occasions.
A typical meal in Nicaragua consists of a type of meat (chicken, beef, or pork), plain rice or gallo pinto (see below), a type of fried plantains, and salad made of cabbage. But of course, there is more!
Gallo Pinto – the heart and soul of Nicaragua cuisine, consisting of rice, red beans, garlic, onions, and a bit of chicken broth. It’s delicious, healthy, and is eaten by Nicaraguans for any meal of the day.
Tajadas – Green plantains (not ripe) thinly sliced, fried in oil, and lightly salted. Almost like a potato chip, but much better. Seen here in the link with cuajada, a type of Nicaraguan cheese.
Tostones – Green plantains cut into inch-long pieces, smashed, and then fried in oil. Thicker than tajadas, and often eaten with fried cheese (Tostones con queso) or lime juice.
Vigorón – Granada is famous for doing vigoron right. Vigorón is the combination of chicharrón, yucca, and salad and served on a plantain tree leaf. Chicharrón, fried pork skin, is extremely popular in Latin America. Salty, tough, and absolutely delicious. Served with yucca, which is somewhat similar to a potato, and a cabbage salad, vigorón ron is well worth a shot.
Nacatamal – A nacatamal is a huge mixture packed into a dough made of mashed corn. It typically contains pork or chicken, potatoes, rice, tomatoes, and onions. Like most things in Nicaragua, it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Quesillo – Sold by many street vendors, a quesillo is a tortilla containing cheese which is then topped with onions, vinegar, and some cream. Messy to eat but makes for a delicious snack.
Mamones – I must admit that I haven’t been to adventurous in the market as far as purchasing fruits. It’s intimidating to buy a fruit that you’ve never seen before and have no idea how to even eat it. However, I was offered a momon by one of our clients and I have been addicted ever since. Momones are little green balls that contain a round seed. In between the round inner seed and the green outer skin is a sweet, soft layer that is delicious. To eat it, you bite into the green outer skin, take off the skin, and then do your best to eat the layer of the fruit which is stuck on the inner seed. They make for a great snack and is a fun challenge to eat!
Queso – Cheese is very popular here. It tastes almost nothing like cheese in the western world. It’s extremely salty and dry. In Granada, cheese vendors set up their stands all around the market, selling a pound of cheese for less than $2. You can eat it raw or fried, alone or with fried plantains. At first I hated the cheese, but I have grown to love it and find it a great compliment to other Nicaraguan foods.
Although the cuisine here is very simple, it’s fantastic. There is not a whole lot of variety in the typical food here. However, the taste of it never gets old to me!