Location: Central America
Population: 4.9 million
Capital: San José
Geography: A forested, mountainous, highly biodiverse country with coasts on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea
Signature flavours: Rice, beans, root vegetables, corn, cilantro, seafood, chicken, dairy
I built most of my menu from a great little book called A Taste of Latin America, which had quite a good section on Costa Rican cuisine, and a food blog — Recipes from Costa Rica (see links below). Costa Rican cuisine blends flavours found in both Mexican and Caribbean culinary traditions, but is a thing of its own, favouring a less spicy profile, lots of dairy (cheese, milk, butter), and fresh seafood.
Sopa Negra: A hearty black bean, onion, red pepper soup with hard boiled eggs.
Prep and cooking time: 45 min (plus time to soak the beans)
Ceviche de Corvina: Raw bass marinated in lime juice, tossed with bell pepper and red onion, and served with corn chips.
Prep and cooking time: 6 hours
Enyucados: There are many recipes for this dish, and they differ quite a lot. The recipe I followed called for mashed boiled yucca folded around a filling of (soy) beef, then deep fried.
Prep and cooking time: 60 min
Budín de Pan: A thick, buttery bread pudding studded with raisins. I drizzled mine with homemade caramel sauce.
Prep and cooking time: 90 min
The Shopping List
I found high-quality bass (you don’t want to skimp on fish for ceviche) at Hooked, Inc. All my other ingredients came from our local supermarket.
The first thing I did for this assignment was to get the bass marinating, since the recipe called for six hours of it. This was the longest marinating time of any ceviche I’ve made so far (Samoan ceviche, oka i’a, can be marinated for as little as 15 minutes). The fish is essentially “cooked” by the acids in the lime juice, and six hours allowed for a meaty, firm texture. This dish was crisp, clean, and juicy, and delicious when scooped onto corn chips.
The bean soup was easy to throw together, with a black bean, garlic, and onion-based broth flavoured with red peppers and served with whole hard boiled eggs. It was really good. Eric was transported back to his childhood in Venezuela, where he enjoyed soups like this regularly.
The enyucados were the most labour intensive of my chosen dishes, from peeling and coring the yucca, to boiling and mashing this very starchy root vegetable, to making a dough from the mashed yucca and wrapping it around a filling of soy beef and cheese (my addition). They were deep fried before serving, adding a crispy exterior to an otherwise soft and doughy ball. Eric and I both liked them — with a mild sweetness from the yucca, and the more savoury cheese and beef, they were a unique and delicious treat.
We finished our meal with budín de pan — buttery, eggy, and blanketed in thick caramel sauce. Bread soaked in warm milk and cinnamon is mixed with sugar, butter, eggs, raisins, and a splash of brandy for this decadent dessert. It was moist and sweet, and the perfect way to conclude an excellent Costa Rican feast.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.