Food in Ecuador
Throughout the country, there is a great variety in what is typically eaten, depending on the place. In the Sierra, potatoes are almost always part of lunch and dinner; on the coast, rice is popular. Soup is also a big part of lunch and dinner. Breakfast often consists of toast, eggs and juice or fruit. Batidos, or fruit shakes, are popular breakfast items or snacks. Especially on the coast, Ecuadorians make a variety of breakfast dishes based on green or sweet plantains and yuca, such as bolonoes, empanadas, patacones, corviches, muchines, pan de yuca, humitas and others. They are prepared with either cheese, pork or fish. They are very filling and inexpensive meals.
Restaurants vary widely in terms of menu, quality, hygiene, opening hours and prices. Simple meals can be had for less than $2, or it is possible to pay almost US prices in the tourist areas, especially for food from American chains.
If you are on a budget, it is best to order an almuerzo (lunch) or a merienda (dinner). These usually consist of a soup, a main course with meat and a dessert for $1-$2.
More expensive restaurants (e.g. those charging $4 per meal or more) often add a 12% sales tax and a 10% service charge.
Coffee or tea (including many herbal varieties) is usually served after the meal, unless you ask for an earlier time.
Except in establishments aimed at foreigners, it is customary not to present the bill to the guest until he or she asks for it. While many waiters are used to rude tourists, rubbing fingers together is not as accepted as in Europe, although it is not considered as rude as in the United States. The best way to get the bill is to tell the waiter, “La Cuenta, Por Favor”.
Smoking is allowed in most restaurants, but the law specifically prohibits smoking in enclosed areas, so it is a good idea to ask for a smoking area or ask if the restaurant allows smoking.
Locro de papa is a famous Ecuadorian soup with avocados, potatoes and cheese.
Ceviche is a common dish on the coast. It is a cold seafood cocktail usually served with “chifles”, thin fried plantains, and popcorn.
Encebollado is a hearty fish soup with yuca, also found on the coast: a tomato and fish soup filled with pieces of yuca, marinated vegetables and “chifles” for extra crunch.
In the highlands, Ecuadorians eat cuy, or guinea pig. The whole animal is roasted or deep-fried and often served skewered.
Empanadas are also a common local food, usually eaten as an afternoon snack. The most common variations of this filled pastry are cheese and/or chicken.
Bollo Made with ground sweet plantains with peanuts and white bread. This is a very typical dish on the Ecuadorian coast.
Bolón Made from chopped plantains with cheese or pork. It is eaten for breakfast with coffee. It is mainly eaten on the coast in the province of Manabí.
Drinks in Ecuador
Bottled water is very common and is safe to drink; there is gaseous (carbonated) and siniform (non-carbonated). Tap water is not safe to drink. Even Ecuadorians usually only drink bottled (or boiled) water.
Coffee is widely available in cafés and restaurants and is also sold in bean form. Tea is also common, usually with a good selection including herbal tea.
Fruit juice is plentiful and good, and you often have many options: Piña (pineapple), Mora (blackberry), Maracuyá (passion fruit), Naranja (orange), Sandía (watermelon), Naranjilla (a jungle fruit), Melon, Taxo, Guanabana, Guava, etc. If you want it made with milk, like a less frozen milkshake, ask for a batida. Note that juices are often served lukewarm.
Aguardiente, often made from fermented sugar cane, is the local firewater. If possible, have some freshly ground from the sugar cane in your cup.