Eat like a Nica in Ten Easy Steps

>> Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Hands down the staple dish in Nicaragua is gallo pinto; it is not an exaggeration to say that most Nicaraguans eat gallo pinto (or a variation thereof, namely rice and beans or beans and rice) three times a day every day. Paul and I eat gallo pinto several times a week and, honestly, it's one of my favorite foods here. Just in case you'd like to cook your own authentic Nicaraguan food or begin preparing for a trip down to visit us, here are step-by-step instructions:

1. First, you need to rinse your rice. Most rice here is sold in huge bins that you scoop from, so lots of people have their hands in there scooping. Additionally, you can usually find lots of little rocks and sticks and things like that, so you should rinse it about 3 times.

2. Go to the pulperia down the street and buy a bag of frijoles cocidos (cooked beans) from the neighborhood lady. This bag cost ten córdobas, or about 50 cents. It's much easier and cheaper to buy your beans pre-cooked because they take several hours to cook and therefore use a lot of gas. The people who make beans and sell them have wood stoves that they use to cook the beans. If your neighborhood does not yet have its own bean lady, I guess you can substitute canned beans, but results may vary.

3. Tear a hole in your bag 'o beans and squeeze all the liquid out. You also need to mush the beans up a bit while they're in the bag. Try not to get any bean juice on your toothbrush.

4. Cook your rice. First, put a little (or a lot if you're Nicaraguan) vegetable oil in your pot then add the rice. Stir it around and when it begins to stick to the sides and bottom, add your water to the top of the rice. Turn the stove on high and let the water boil down until it's down below the level of the rice and your rice is nice and fluffy. Turn the stove on super-low and cover until the rice is cooked, which is about 10 minutes. 5. While you're cooking the rice, cook your beans. Add your vegetable oil again a su gusto (as you like) and cook your chopped up onion. 7. Add your mushed up beans to your almost-cooked onion and cook for about 5 minutes. The rice is currently at the "boiling down" stage.
8. When both are cooked, add two to two and a half scoops big metal spoon scoops of rice to your beans (we have enough leftover rice to make gallo pinto again or fried rice, one of Paul's specialties). Mix them together and let them simmer together for 10-15 minutes.
9. While your gallo pinto is simmering, toast your tortillas. In Nicaragua, corn tortillas are the most common. Every evening, there are grills up and down the streets where people are making and selling their tortillas for a cord each (5 cents). Sometimes we splurge and get flour tortillas from the supermarket, which we then toast ourselves.10. Get your gallo pinto, your tortillas, Tabasco or other salsa, and Coke. ¡Buen provecho -- enjoy!


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