Citizens, we are long overdue to visit the proud country of Ecuador and we will be sampling one of its finest recipes!
Ecuador, officially the Republic of Ecuador (Spanish: República del Ecuador, which literally translates as “Republic of the Equator”), is a representative democratic republic in northwestern South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Ecuador also includes the famed Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) west of the mainland.
What is now Ecuador was home to a variety of Amerindian groups that were gradually incorporated into the Inca Empire during the 15th century. The territory was colonized by Spain during the 16th century, achieving independence in 1820 as part of Gran Colombia, from which it emerged as its own sovereign state in 1830. The legacy of both empires is reflected in Ecuador’s ethnically diverse population, with most of its 15.2 million people being mestizos, followed by large minorities of European, Amerindian, and African descendants.
Spanish is the official language and is spoken by a majority of the population, though 13 Amerindian languages are also recognized, including Quichua and Shuar. The capital city is Quito, while the largest city is Guayaquil. In reflection of the country’s rich cultural heritage, the historical center of Quito was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Cuenca, the third-largest city, was also declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 as an outstanding example of a planned, inland Spanish-style colonial city in the Americas.
Ecuador has a developing economy that is highly dependent on commodities, namely petroleum and agricultural products. The country is classified as a medium-income country and is a democratic presidential republic. The new constitution of 2008 is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights.
Ecuador is also known for its rich ecology, hosting many endemic plants and animals, such as those of the Galápagos Islands. It is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world.
Ecuadorian cuisine is diverse, varying with the altitude and associated agricultural conditions. Most regions in Ecuador follow the traditional three course meal of soup, a course that includes rice and a protein, and then dessert and coffee to finish. Supper is usually lighter and sometimes consists only of coffee or herbal tea with bread.
In the highland region, pork, chicken, beef, and cuy (guinea pig) are popular and are served with a variety of grains (especially rice and corn) or potatoes.
Encocados (dishes that contain a coconut sauce) are also very popular. Churrasco is a staple food of the coastal region, especially Guayaquil. Arroz con menestra y carne asada (rice with beans and grilled beef) is one of the traditional dishes of Guayaquil, as is fried plantain, which is often served with it. This region is a leading producer of bananas, Cocoa beans (to make chocolate), shrimp, tilapia, mango, and passion fruit, among other products.
In the Amazon region, a dietary staple is the yuca, elsewhere called cassava. Many fruits are available in this region, including bananas, tree grapes, and peach palms.
In the coastal region, seafood is very popular, with fish, shrimp, and ceviche being key parts of the diet. Generally, ceviches are served with fried plantain (chifles y patacones), popcorn, or tostado. Plantain- and peanut-based dishes are the basis of most coastal meals. In Ecuador, the seafood in ceviche is cooked briefly before it’s marinated – a policy adopted after a large cholera outbreak in the early 1990’s. Shrimp ceviche is especially popular in Ecuador, and it usually includes a Latin version of cocktail sauce.
This shrimp ceviche includes sweet, nutty Andean corn kernels (called choclo) and pickled red onions. In Ecuador shrimp ceviche is often served with toasted chulpe corn (cancha) or popcorn on the side, chifles (fried plantain chips), and plenty of cold beer.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
For the shrimp:
1 gallon water
2 tablespoons salt
3 limes, cut in quarters
2 pounds uncooked, shell-on shrimp, small to medium-sized
2 red onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon salt
2 pints water
4 limes, juice only
Salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ red onion, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 jalapenos or red chilies, seeded and finely chopped
3 scallions finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 navel orange, juice only
5 limes, juice only
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup choclo, or other fresh corn kernels
At least 2 hours before serving:
In a large pot, over high heat, bring water, salt and limes to a boil. Throw in shrimp and cook for one minute.
Remove shrimp and drain. When cool, peel shrimp but leave tails on. Discard water and limes and refrigerate shrimp until serving.
Place the onion slices in a bowl of cold salted water, and let soak for 10 minutes.
Cook the corn kernels in a pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Reserve.
In the meantime, in a medium sauce pan, over high heat, bring water to a boil.
Place onions in a colander. Rinse and drain well.
Add onions to boiling water for no more than 20 seconds. Remove them to colander and drain.
Rinse onions with cold water and drain well.
In a medium glass bowl, combine onions and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until serving.
In the bowl of a food processor, process garlic, onion, tomatoes, bell and chili peppers until well combined. Transfer to a medium glass bowl.
Add scallions, cilantro, ketchup, vegetable oil, orange juice, lime juice, sugar and salt to tomato and pepper mixture. Stir to combine well.
Refrigerate until serving.
1 hour before serving:
Give the sauce a good stir. Salt and pepper to taste. Gently mix in shrimp and cooked corn. Refrigerate for an hour.