Hispanic Heritage Month is still going on until the 15th so I thought I would share with all of you my favorite (and not so favorite) Panamanian Food. I think it’s important to talk about food when observing our heritage because it plays such an important role in who we are. Immigrants bring the food of their countries with them wherever they go and cooking traditional food is a way of preserving their culture when they move to new places. It’s important to me to not only cook the food of my culture, but to pass it on to my children because it’s a symbol of pride for my ethnicity.
Hojaldras: Also known as Panamanian-fry bread is a favorite at breakfast. Growing up we usually ate it with fried hot dog and a fried egg.
Patacones: Fried green plantain. When I lived in Puerto Rico they called them tostones. They are a staple in a lot of Latin American cuisine. I personally eat it with melted butter and a little salt, but everyone is different. You fry them once, remove it, and smash it (my mom used to use a random glass bottle) then fry it again.
Plátanos maduros: You can pretty much eat a banana at every stage. For platanos maduros the plantain needs to be very ripe. They need to be black, to the point where most people would throw them out. I love eating them with carne guisada, because the rice mixed with the meat and sauce is perfect with that little bit of sweetness.
ONE OF MY ABSOLUTE FAVS
Empanadas: I’ve had them in Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Panama, and the Dominican Republic and Panama has the best! I know I’m biased, but they are so good! Some people describe them as Latin American style turnovers. A flaky crust filled with anything you like, but beef is my favorite.
Carimañola: These are pretty similar to empanadas. Smashed yuca are used as the dough and filled with meat or cheese. They are shaped like torpedoes and fried.
Carne guisada: I remember when I was younger and people would ask me what Panamanians eat I didn’t really know how to explain it. I would say that the meat was always in a red sauce, like it’s own gravy and you put that on your rice. Living in the south that was always confusing for people to understand. What it is, is stewed meat. Once you’ve got all of your ingredients in you let it simmer and cook slow. The sauce is usually made from the juice the meat makes and adding in other spices plus sofrito and/or tomato sauce. I’m not going to lie, I make this so much I can’t remember what I put in it. I just do it.
Pargo frito (fried red snapper): A whole deep fried red snapper usually served with patacones.
Sancocho: Most cultures have a version of chicken soup, and sancocho is the Panamanian version. Like chicken soup in American culture, sancocho has healing powers. It will cure hangovers, the flu, a cold, you name it! Well sancocho and vaporub! Whats in it? Chicken (of course), culantro (not the same as cilantro), garlic, onions, carrots, corn, yuca, oregano, black pepper.
Saus: Pickled pig feet. Probably one of my least favorite of all the Panamanian food, but it was served at every family function we had. When someone pulled out the sao you knew the party was going to be lit! The pig “parts” are usually cooked (marinated) in a solution made of fresh lime or lemon juice, vinegar, salt, minced hot pepper, onions and cucumbers.
Yuca frita: Deep fried yuca root. It is very similar to a potato. I honestly don’t care too much for Yuca. However it seems like I might be the only person because everybody else I know loves it. It can be eaten as a fry. My mom would make a sauce similar to the carne guisada meat sauce and put it on top.
Panamanian tamales: You can eat them anytime you want, but you will probably see them most during Christmas. Wrapped in plantain leaves and filled with chicken. They are a lot different than Mexican tamales. They are wetter so you have to eat them with a fork. The masa is made out of corn meal.
Arroz con guandu: Guandu is pidgen peas. In my family rice is cooked In the biggest pots known to man. It isn’t served with butter or sugar (yuck.) But the absolute best part of any rice is the burnt part on the bottom. Yes we purposely burn the bottom which we call concolon, some people call it pegao.
FRIED FOOD IS SO DELICIOUS!
If you didn’t notice fried food is a common theme with Panamanian food. I always tell my husband that’s where the “flavor” comes from. I know there is a ton of dishes I am leaving off. If you have any good recipes or tutorials feel free to let me know! What are some of your favorite Panamanian dishes? How about good dishes from your country?
UNTIL NEXT TIME!!