Ever wanted to venture off the beaten path? How about way, way off the beaten path?
Feeling adventurous one afternoon in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, I went to the municipal fruit and vegetable market, or mercado municipal. At this market, vendors sell piles of fruit, vegetables, raw meats, fish, eggs to the locals. Other vendors prepare and sell Ecuadorean food in the plaza just outside the market. I did not see any other tourists, and the lack of turtles and sea lions painted everywhere signalled that I had ventured far off the tourist path.
Note: To get there, just ask flag down a taxi from anywhere in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island. The taxis are the white trucks which drive by frequently, and fare should only cost as of 2014 $1 USD for anywhere within the town center. Walk around the building until you see the plaza with little tables set up, you have now arrived!
Don’t forget to wander around once you’re inside to check out all the fresh fruits and veggies. You can see naranjilla(bitter orange), tomate de arbol (tree tomato), and other weird fruits you have probably been drinking in juice form without knowing what they are.
Here’s what you can try (if you dare!)
These are listed in order from most gringo-friendly to most adventuresome foods.
Empanadas are deep fried savory pastries filled with cheese, chicken or beef. Greasy but delicious!
Morocho Corn Drink
Morocho is a sweet, hot white corn drink made out of cracked corn, milk, sugar, and raisins. It is served hot and with chunks of corn still in it. Morocho and a cheese empanada is my guilty pleasure.
These come in sausage below, and chicken wings above and are roasted over hot coals on the grill.
Grilled plaintains, corviche, and muchines de yuca
The safest food in this picture is the easily recognizable grilled plaintain on the bottom. Moving up the adventure scale a notch, we have the dark brown fried balls which are muchines de yuca, or fried stuffed yucca balls, which can have either cheese or meat. The light brown balls on the top are corviches, or a deep fried ball of fish, ground up peanuts, and unripened plaintain or verde (literally translates to “green”). I personally like grilled plaintains but am not a find the other two too greasy.
Last, but not least…Grilled cow intestines!
The raw intestines in the middle are flanked by the finished product (right) and cheese potato pancakes or llapingachos (left).
Have you tried any of the above? Let us know what you liked them!