Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit Latin America for the very first time. Flying into Guayaquil, Ecuador, I could hardly contain my excitement knowing that I would spend the next seven days exploring Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. For the nature lover in me, it was a dream come true. The opportunity to get up close and personal with one-of-a-kind wildlife was absolutely thrilling and everything I hoped it would be. For the foodie in me, it ignited a passion for Latin American food.
Admittedly, I was a little caught off guard when I saw ceviche at the breakfast buffet at the hotel. I love ceviche, but had never even thought of having it for breakfast. My initial thought was that maybe it was leftovers from the dinner the previous night. As I picked away at my bacon and eggs, I noticed several people going back for seconds and thirds of the ceviche. After a while, a hotel chef replaced the nearly empty ceviche dish with a brand new full one.
So, what the heck? I walked over to the buffet and ladled myself a bowl full. Large bowls of popcorn, plantain chips, and roasted pine nuts sat beside the dish the chef had just brought out. I love all three, but considered them at bit bizarre for breakfast food. Even more bizarre was seeing people using them to garnish their ceviche! I decided that if I wanted to truly experience Latin America like a local, then I’d better at least decorate my ceviche with some of these unusual toppings.
Now it was time for the taste test. I dipped my spoon into the bowl and retrieved a nice piece of shrimp, some red onion, cilantro, and lime juice. Then I balanced a piece of each topping on my spoon, opened wide, and scooped it all into my mouth. The taste was exquisite! The tart freshness of the ceviche and the salty crunch of the toppings were an amazing combination. It was truly a love-at-first-bite experience, and—fortunately for me—it wasn’t just a breakfast food. I was able to savor my newfound love multiple times at lunch and dinner as well during my trip.
My experience with Ecuadorian-style ceviche has caused me to expand my bucket list to more Latin America destinations—just to experience the food. Avianca airlines can get me to every destination on my list. Plus, the culinary experience can begin on board with complimentary food, beverages, and liquors in all classes of service!
Some people use a map to decide where to travel, but we’ve decided to use a menu. In preparation of our taste-tempting tour of Latin America, we’ve created a “culinary bucket list” of local dishes we want to try throughout the region. We’ll follow our taste buds from Panama to Peru and San Jose to São Paulo savoring every succulent and flavorful mile.
Here’s our list of must-try meals.
Guatemala: Paches de Guatemala
Made with potatoes, pork, turkey, peppers, tomato sauce, and olives and wrapped in a banana leaf, these little packages are a delicious alternative to the traditional tamale as we know it.
Popcorn, pine nuts, and plantain chips used to garnish ceviche
Costa Rica: Guaro
While it’s not a meal, guaro is a distilled liquor made from sugar-cane juice. It’s clear, strong, and slightly sweet, and it originated in Costa Rica. Cheers! We’ll drink to that.
Colombia: Bandeja paisa
Touted as the national dish of Colombia, bandeja paisa is a platter of meat (beef, pork, and chorizo sausage), red beans, rice, plantain, and avocado topped with a fried egg. Looks like this meal could be considered breakfast, lunch, and dinner on one single platter.
São Paulo, Brazil: Feijoada
This black beans and cured-pork stew with onions and garlic, served over rice and topped with orange slices, is at the top of our list of what to eat in São Paulo.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Churrasco
A carnivore’s delight, churrasco is a variety of meats skewered on barbecues and spits.
Belize: Rice and beans
This Belizean staple is not your run-of-the-mill rice and beans. It’s made with coconut milk, which piqued our curiosity and perked up our palate, so we added it to the list.
Viewfinder Tip: Avianca is the only airline that serves its own brewed coffee named Xue, from Colombia—often recognized as the “best origin coffee.”
Sancocho is the national soup in Panama, made with chicken, broth, and vegetables like corn on the cob, yuca, and yams.
It is the cooking method of this traditional Peruvian dish that has us drooling over pachamanca, which loosely translates to “earth.” Meats are marinated in spices and then cooked in pits over hot stones.
We can’t wait to hop on an Avianca flight to learn more about Latin American culture through these delicious, indigenous dishes.
What are your favorite Latin American foods?