Costa Rican Cuisine
Costa Rican cuisine is very mild but tasty. There is a 12 month growing season here so Costa Rican cuisine heavily features fresh fruits & vegetables. As you spend more time in Costa Rica, you will notice many similarities with the cuisines of other Latin American countries. Tortillas are served with many meals. Since avocados (aguacates) are native to Costa Rica, you will find them included in many dishes and guacamole and pico de gallo (that's the Spanish for what North Americans generally call salsa) are readily available.
There are many small, informal restaurants throughout Costa Rica with the word "soda" in them. These are very much a part of the local colour. You should make the point of trying them at least once- the food is generally very good, authentic and inexpensive.
A traditional tico breakfast would include Gallo Pinto (a mixture of black beans and rice with herbs) often served alongside fresh local cheese. The cheese can either be served cold or pan fried with tortillas for a real tico experience. For lunch, a typical meal would be a casado. A casado generally consists of some type of meat or fish, along with rice (arroz), plaintains, beans (frijoles), tortillas & a small salad but there are several variations on the exact complements to your protein.
In bars and restaurants a selection of tipico (typical) bocas (snacks) is generally available. You might find empanadas (turnovers filled with meat or cheese), tamales, chicharrones (fried pork skin- a local delicacy), ceviches (cold seafood in lime juice), chifrijo (chicharrones, black beans, rice & pico de gallo).
On Fridays during daylight hours, the town of Jaco hosts a farmer's market. This is a nice opportunity to pick up some exotic fruits. You may even find that there are fruits available that you have never heard of before, like guanabana & cas! One interesting fruit dish is unripe green mango with salt & lime.
Typical vegetables that are ever-present in Costa Rican cuisine are yuca (or cassava), chayote (similar to squash) & plantains. A common dish is picadillo which is similar to a hash and uses any one of the vegetables above with ground meat and spices.
A selection of your typical soft drinks are always available but we recommend that you try some of the local drinks as well. A particular favorite of ours is the natural juice smoothie. This is a combination of fresh fruit juice of your choice, blended with water instead of milk to make a really refreshing beverage. "Pipa fria", a young coconut which has been chilled and then a hole cut into its top where a straw is inserted for your enjoyment is another wonderful drink option. Full of electrolytes and nutrients, coconut water is an excellent way to refresh after an eco tour or adventure activity.
Desserts in Costa Rica tend to be similar to those you would see in other places in Latin America: flan (caramel custard), arroz con leche (rice pudding), tres leches (3 milks cake). When you visit fruit stands and small local shops in Costa Rica, you will notice small cakes (they look kind of like white fudge) which are called cajetas de leche and are made of sugar and condensed milk. In grocery stores you will see a variety of local candies and cookies (we recommend the Chiky Blak).
Salsa Lizano (Lizano sauce) is a staple of Costa Rican cuisine. A brown sauce made of vegetables & spice, it is a bit tangy. Try it on arroz con pollo, scrambled eggs, rice, gallo pinto, meat, empanadas...the list goes on. Lizano is also a really great marinade.
No discussion of Costa Rican cuisine would be complete without mentioning the coffee. Coffee is one of Costa Rica's main exports however, a great deal of it remains in the country for the enjoyment of the citizens and visitors. Coffee is harvested in the dry season when the coffee beans are bright red. Costa Rican coffee is bold and full bodied.
The local liquor is called Guaro and is made from sugarcane and is slightly sweet. Best enjoyed in a guaro sour. There are three local brands for beer: Imperial, Pilsen & Bavaria. Imperial is the most popular brand but all three are good depending upon your preference. If you want to try something different- a michelata is a great option. Made of beer & fresh lime juice poured into a glass of ice with a salt rim- fabulous!