Panama’s cuisine is influenced by the mix of cultures that live here. Indigenous, Creole and Latin elements have made their ways into the country’s cooking pots, and, along with the abundance of fruit, vegetables and seafood, have resulted in several dishes that you should not miss when visiting Panama. You will find a variety of seafood, accompanied by staples such as rice and beans, different root vegetables like yucca (Cassava) or ñame (Yam), as well as plantains and corn, but here are the five typical foods that you should definitely try:
Ceviche (always served ice cold) is a popular snack or starter in Panama. Made with only the freshest seafood it can include pretty much any kind of seafood, but corvina (Sea Bass) is the most common one. The freshness of the seafood is vital in the preparation, as the fish is not cooked, instead, the proteins of the raw fish are broken down with lime juice.
Try it at Panama City’s fish market where it is being sold in many varieties, or you can find it in most restaurants that are reasonably near to the sea.
If you want to try a shot at making it yourself, a recipe can be found here
Patacones are a Panamanian staple, served with meat, fish or simply with a dipping sauce as a snack. They are basically twice-fried pieces of green plantain, and you will find them in mostly every restaurant in the country.
Quick and easy cooking instructions can be found here
Mostly every country has a chicken soup, and the Panamanian version is called sancocho. Every housewife has her own recipe, of course, and the used ingredients vary widely. The most basic recipes only use chicken with one or two available root vegetables (most commonly yucca or name), others are more flamboyant, always depending on what is at hand. Ingredients often found in sancocho are sweetcorn on the cob, potato, and various vegetables such as carrots, peppers or celery.
A recipe that gives you a good overview over the ingredients is this one
Arroz con Pollo
Arroz con Pollo is Panamenian comfort food, and is often served on parties, but it is also a popular meal in day-to-day cuisine. Similar to the better known Spanish Paella, it is made from rice cooked in saffron, with pieces of chicken, olives and green peas thrown into the mix.
Try making it yourself following these instructions
Chicha de arroz con Piña
Chicha refers to a variety of sweet drinks, ranging from simple fruit drinks to more complicated ones. One of the heavier, more flavorful ones is arroz con piña (rice with pineapple). It is something between a milkshake and a rice pudding, and is heavy enough to be more of a dessert or light breakfast than a drink.
Follow this step-by-step description to make it yourself
By Meret Schueschke