Comica de Panameños
Latin American culture relies heavily on chicken and rice. Remember an “ensalada” on the side and you have yourself a Panamanian meal. However, Panama is home to multiple cultures, creating an influence in food from Spanish, American, Afro-Caribbean, and Indigenous Peoples. Depending on your location in Panama, a “typical” meal could change drastically.
Typical Panamanian meal made by a local from Santa Catalina
Panama is surrounded by the Caribbean and the Pacific, and in some areas people focus on seafood as a meal to feed their family. Before tourism arrived in coastal areas, Panamanians often made a living by fishing. A typical seafood meal could include grouper, red bass, octopus, or conch. Fresh ceviche is a common side dish in the homes near the water’s edge. The Panamanian ceviche, served with crackers, contains shrimp, conch, and/or fish, mixed with a blend of vegetables. Usually these include onions, tomatoes, and cilantro.
The majority of Panamanians harvest their own food. A main source of meat is chicken, because they are cheap and easy to maintain. A staple meal for many in Panama is fried chicken with coconut rice and beans. Coconut rice is cooked with the fresh coconut oil made by many of the locals in Panama.
Often both children and adults will be crowded around the man on the streets who sells snow cones, called Raspadas. Not only do the refreshing snow cones have great tropical flavors like pineapple, passion fruit, mango, and guava, they also have a slight drizzle of sweetened condensed milk on the top.
Cooking with Chure, a local chef in Santa Catalina
Chure making Yucca fries
A favorite side dish in Panama is a local delicacy: twice-fried plantains, known as patacones (Pat – uh – cone – a’s). Tourists all over Panama form lines to get a scoop of authentic patacones to go with their fried chicken, rice, and beans. At first sight, tourists might be slightly wary because of the smashed banana look, but that fried crispy smell keeps them coming back for more.
Chure making Yucca fries
Because Panama has a blend of multiple cultures, various types of food have become authentic to Panama. No matter what food you like or dislike, Panama has just the meal to fit your needs. Head to Panama to try a savory delicious Panameño meal.
Shelby Lewis is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program
All photos courtesy and copyright Shelby Lewis