Living in Costa Rica has made me realize I have a lot to learn about all the foods that grow here, and where they come from. But I do know that a lot of them are delicious! I’m going to tell about what I learned about my favorite Costa Rican breakfast, and then show you how to make it!
One of the best parts of living in Costa Rica is breakfast. Every morning when I wake up, my host mom, Flory prepares me something to eat. My favorite Costa Rican breakfast is beans and rice, fried plantains with cream, and fruit. Do you eat these foods, or anything like them at home? I liked them right away and I am excited to make them when I get back home!
For many Costa Ricans, black beans and white rice are part of almost every meal! Black beans are pea-sized, and shiny with a white center. They have been grown and eaten by people here in Central America for thousands of years. Rice, on the other hand, is not native to the Americas at all. Rice comes from Asia. Before Europeans brought rice over here, people who lived on this land ate yucca, a starchy root, and corn as their base food. But over time, rice became a very important part of the Costa Rican diet.
Plantains are a starchy fruit similar to bananas, but with a few differences. Plantains are larger than bananas, and are usually eaten fried. When they are young, they taste plain and starchy, like potatoes. But when they are ripe, and the skin is almost all black, they are sweet and sticky. If you fry them when they are ripe, you can make a sweet-tasting Costa Rican side dish called Platanos Maduros, which means “ripe plantains.” Along with Gallopinto, a mix of rice and beans, they make my favorite breakfast. Do you want to know how to make it? I’ll tell you! It only takes about 15 minutes.
Platanos Maduros, or Ripe plantains:
You will need:
1 ripe plantain
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
And if you like: 1 or 2 tablespoons of natilla or sour cream
You can’t buy plantains everywhere in the United States, so if you can’t find them, try using yellow bananas. If you can find them, that’s great! Make sure you wait to fry them until the peel is almost black. They may look rotten, but they are just right!
*Cut 1 plantain in diagonal slices, about at thick as your pinky finger.
*Pour 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a frying pan and heat on medium.
*When the oil is hot, add your sliced plantains, making sure each one is touching the bottom of the pan. If the oil is hot enough, they should sizzle.
*Cook until golden brown, and then carefully flip each one using a fork or a spatula.
*Cook on the second side until golden brown on the other side. Keep your eye on them, because once they start to brown, they can burn fast! Remove from heat when finished.
Here is the second part of the breakfast:
Gallopinto, or Beans and Rice:
Many Ticos make Gallopinto, pronounced “gah-yo-peen-toe,” by mixing together and frying the beans and rice from last night’s dinner. It would take a long time to tell you how to cook beans and rice, and maybe you already know how! If not, maybe you can ask a friend, or look at the directions on the bag labels. Let’s assume you have leftover whole beans, not refried, and rice from last night’s dinner, like a Costa Rican. Let’s assume you are making your gallopinto and maduros for breakfast for yourself and someone in your family!
1 cup or can of whole cooked beans, not refried
1 cup of cooked while rice
*Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a separate pan.
*Mix together your leftover beans and rice. About one cup of each is fine.
*When the oil is hot, pour your rice and bean mixture into the pan. That should sizzle a little too. Fry, stirring occasionally, for five to ten minutes. Add salt if you think it needs some.
Put your maduros next to your gallopinto on a plate. Natilla or sour cream with a little salt is a great with your plantains. Buen provecho! Enjoy!
Before I go, I want to tell you something I am learning about fruit. Bananas, pineapple, coconut, papaya, guava, and passion fruit are just a few of the delicious fruits that are native to Costa Rica. There is also a lot of citrus fruit in Costa Rica. Citrus is the fruit group that includes lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits. But here, sometimes it is hard to tell which is which! I used to think that a lemon is yellow, a lime is green, and of course everyone knows that an orange is orange. But did you know sometimes oranges are green? How about that some limes are orange? Have you ever tried a lemon that is sweet instead of sour?
Shopping for coconut and yucca
Tania and Cana at the market
The reason that fruits in the United States look the way they do is because we only find certain varieties, or kinds of fruit in our stores. The big companies that grow most of the fruit we eat have bred the fruit to look and taste a certain way. The other varieties are usually grown on smaller farms, or grow wild. At an organic farmers market in San Jose, I met some people who explained to me that there are tens and sometimes hundreds of different kinds of citrus, corn, tomatoes, beans, and other fruits and vegetables. Most of us in the United Sates have just never seen them. I will tell you more about what I learned from them, soon! I bought an orange from Tania and Cana and ate it at the market. It was delicious. And it was green!
What kinds of fruit have you tried? Are there places near where you live where fruit is sold? Are there stickers on the fruit that tell you where it comes from?
If you make gallopinto or maduros, or try any tropical fruit, please let me know what you think!