Kind of authentic: Panamanian sancocho

More than just a hat and a canal, Panama has a unique national dish to offer: sancocho. In a way, it’s ‘just’ a chicken stew, but it’s not like one we’ve made before. For one thing, we’d never heard of culantro until we read about this dish. Don’t misread, either: that didn’t say cilantro (American for coriander). Apparently culantro is altogether different whilst not being dissimilar – in fact, it’s known as ‘cilantro’s pungent cousin’. It’s also what gives sancocho its distinct flavour and green hue. Unfortunately, it’s not something we were able to get hold of, so we had to use cilantro/coriander anyway. If you do make this substitute, use more cilantro than you would culantro.

Despite it being the national dish of Panama, if you do a Google search for ‘sancocho recipe’ the first page of results is made up on recipes from Colombia, Dominica and Puerto Rico, so we moved on to page two and chose the first recipe that actually mentioned Panama, which was on 196 Flavors. Continue reading

Breakfast with a difference: Costa Rican gallo pinto

This isn’t the first time we’ve searched for a country’s national dish and found that it’s rice and beans. It seems to be a common staple with minor regional variations. We’ve made a version before so we normally try to find an alternative. However, we didn’t reject Costa Rica’s version, gallo pinto, mainly because we were intrigued by what is apparently an essential ingredient: salsa lizano. Likened (but not identical) to Worcestershire sauce, salsa lizano is the key to an authentic gallo pinto, and we thought it was worth trying. It’s not available to buy here, as far as we know, so we had to make our own! For that (and the gallo pinto), we chose a recipe from Hispanic Kitchen. Continue reading