Here is my running list of Nicaraguan food and fruits that you might not have ever had…I am probably spelling some of them wrong, if you notice, let me know. Also, not all of these are strictly Nicaraguan, you can probably find some of them in other Latin American countries.

alfiñique

A log of Alfiñique

Alfiñique – sugar cane candy, swirly foamy dark sugar cane juice boiled down until it’s pulled into hunks and hardens like hunks of driftwood, grate little bits off to sweeten drinks or just break chucks off and munch.

Ayote en Miel – candied pumpkin.  Look for them in the sweets section of the markets, dark brown hunks of pumpkin cooked for hours in dulce, unrefined brown sugar.  As rich and sticky as it sounds, like pure pumpkin pie filling.

Buñuelos – lovely fried crispy bits of dough made from yucca or corn, with a cinnamon brown sugar honey sauce poured over them.  Tune your ears for the lady selling these on the street from the tub on her head in the afternoon – it’s worth dropping what you are doing to run and catch her.  In León, the ladies that sell them at the entrance to the Guadalupe Cemetary are famous for their buñuelos, and on Nov. 2, the Day of the Dead, the street leading up to the cemetary is lined with stalls selling the hot crispy treats.  I like the yucca ones best.

Arroz con Leche – rice pudding.  Pretty much always delicious, often with hunks of cinnamon bark in it but no raisins.

Cusnaca – Jocote fruits cooked with milk, sugar and cinnamon.  Typical treat around easter-time.

This impressive fruit is the size of a large cantaloupe.

Soncoya – After three years here, I was excited to discover yet another a new fruit.  Similar to the Guanabana but the flesh is a brilliant orange, and it is larger and round.  The outside skin is leathery but the texture is spiky and reminds me a bit of the bark of an older pochote tree.  It is creamy and soft and very sweet.  A very striking fruit!

Carne en Baho – a favorite holiday and weekend dish; labor intensive but when well done it has as sophisticated a blend of flavors as a high quality English beef stew.  Salted beef is layered with plantains, yucca, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and mint in a large pot lined with plantain leaves and steamed for hours over guayava branches.  We have made carne en baho, and it’s a fun and adventurous experience!

Requesón- what do you do with spoiled milk?  Nicaraguans make requesón.  Boil the spoiled milk until it curdles, and then strain out the curdles (feels like you are making cheese).  Then add lots of sugar and some cinnamon and start stirring over a low flame in a saucepan.  If you leave for a second you will be left with black smoking burnt sugar and a hell of a saucepan to clean, but if you succeed in garnering the patience necessary the reward is a sticky, cinnamony creamy caramel treat for snacking.

Tiguilote – Part of my quest to learn all the fruit from the famous song Nicaragua Nicaraguita. Tiguilote is a berry, small and sweet with a good taste but also seriously slimy.  I gagged.  Apparently an excellent remedy for intestinal parasites.  I suppose without any other option I would find a way to choke them down and clear my system out.

Breadfruit tree’s dramatic foliage.

Breadfruit – an Atlantic coast fruit.  I’ve only eaten it fried like french fries.  Starchy and tasty, an excellent carb to accompany a dinner of fish and vegetables. It’s giant, the size of a small watermelon, and the trees are beautiful.

Guanabana – Soursop in English.  Creamy white sweet and tangy fruit with lots of black pits, in a Dr. Seuss-ish bright green spiky peel.

Pijibay for sale on Corn Island

Pejibay – a starchy palm fruit that is cooked and peeled like a potato.  I think they taste like artichoke hearts, and consider them a big treat.  They only grow on the Atlantic coast.  I recently discovered they have made it to Matagalpa, and so am bothering all my friends there to bring them to me to satisfy this new craving.

The electric color of Pitaya is impressive

Pitaya– All of the passion of Nicaragua in a fruit!  Called Dragonfruit in english, I am blown away by the color and flavor of the hot pink kohlrabi shaped fruit.  “Imagine a pineapple on acid”, says my friend Sarah.

Güirila– A large grilled pancake made from cooked corn that is then ground and patted flat like a tortilla.  It´s warm, sweet, and deliciously filling, usually served with soft cuajada farmer’s cheese and sour cream.  The best I have found in Nicaragua are in a tiny restaurant across from the gas station in Sébaco.  The women also come out to sell them at the gas station in banana leaves.

Garroba– Iguana.  The environmentalist in me is not proud of eating this rapidly disappearing animal, but I couldn´t refuse the woman at the farm coaxing me to try a little piece.  She cooked it with achiote and lime, and it was definitely tasty.

Ubre – Udder.  Part of assimilation here is transcending our strange habits of eating some parts of animals while finding other parts disgusting.  Udder is pretty much what I expected it to be, spongy texture and not too much flavor.  That was a stretch for me, and I’m definitely going to draw the line before balls come into the picture (or rather onto my plate)…

Cusuco – Armadillo.  I’ll admit I did not understand what animal I was eating when I tried this.  It’s tasty, a texture kind of like chicken but a gamier flavor.  The traditional way to eat it is sautéed with onions and peppers, with fresh bitter orange squeezed on it and a tortilla.

Albondigo – a round dumpling made from corn masa and served in chicken soup.  They remind me of matzah balls.

Dulce – literally translated dulce just means sweet, but here it refers to unrefined cane sugar.  Dulce is sold in bricks in the markets, and used in place of refined sugar in many candies and sweets.  It’s the same product that I learned as panela in Ecuador.

Gofio – A candy made from pinol, which is fine corn flour, cocoa flour, dulce, and spices like cinnamon and cardamom.  It’s a little dry but not overly sweet, and I like it a lot.  A small diamond-shaped very soft crumbly cookie.  In León, it’s the traditional homemade sweet given out in the griterría on the 7th of December.

Achiote – A spice grown here in abundance, used to color meat red.  In English it is known as annatto.  Achiote are the seeds that fall out of a woody pod when the plant is dried.

Vigorón – pork, sautéed in spices and achiote, served over a mountain of yucca with salad on top.  Never imagined I would enjoy this, but it is soooo flavorful and there is a little stand in the street near my house where they serve it hot on a platter of banana leaves, with chili sauce that is actually really spicy.  From here on is where my pants start to become too small.

Salpicón – ground beef, cooked, and mixed with minced sweet peppers and lots of lime.  Eaten as a platter with rice, maduros or tostones, tortillas.  It’s dry but tasty.  The lime gives it a unique fresh and light flavor that I’m not used to in meat dishes.

Leche Burra – toffee candy made from milk.  It tastes like it has molasses in it.  For me they are tasty little morsels reminiscent of gingerbread, just 5 cents each.

Cajeta de Coco – soft candies made from shredded coconut.  Some of them are dyed bright pink. (They don’t have yucca, as many have corrected me.  I think the person who told me that was confusing them with buñelos.)

Coyolitos – soft ball of tamarind and banana rolled in sugar.  I think there might be cinnamon in them too; they are very sweet, very flavourful and very filling.

Empanada de platanos – yummy little dumpling made from platanos maduros and filled with cheese and then fried.  I am seriously going to get a platanos belly here, there are various ways to cook them, but most of the variations are fried.

Caimito – another fruit in the same family as the nisporo and sapote. It is dark purple on the outside and absolutely brilliant magenta inside, fantastically beautiful.

Tajadas – lengthwise strips of plantain, fried in oil like potato chips, and eaten out of a bag on the street with a small handful of salad (shredded cabbage in a light vinaigrette) and chili if you want.

Nispero, small brown fruit with a think leathery skin, soft dark golden flesh, and two beautiful black almond-shaped seeds inside. It is so sweet I almost gagged when I first tried it, but since have come to really like it on pancakes (it does have a sweetness similar to maple syrup), and as a substitute for applesauce in apple cake and muffins.

Sapote, another fruit, this one about the size of an avocado but round, with similar brown leathery skin. It has one big pit inside, and the flesh is dark, smooth, with a rich earthy and also incredibly sweet flavour.

Maduros Horneados con Cuajada, ripe plantains broiled in an oven with no extra oil (so they say), sold in the market with a small pat of salty soft cheese called cuajada and wrapped in a young plantain leaf. I love maduros, asados o hornados, no me importa!

Tiste– very finely ground corn mixed with cocoa powder into a paste. You can buy little logs of them from corner stores, and mix it with sugar, water or milk, and ice. It´s a little bit grainy because the corn flour never completely dissolves, but I find it very satisfying.

Chicha- Red corn, ground and cooked and then fermented for a few days. The pulpy mush is sold in bags at the market, or in the morning also as a finished drink. To make the drink, you mix the pulp with water, sugar, and ice. It tastes sweet and slightly fermented, kind of like kefir, but I don´t like it too much.

Jocotes- Small fruits slightly smaller than a plum. The ripe ones are golden in color. They are honestly 90% pit, and 2% skin (which you can definitely eat, it´s slightly bitter and a little tough but not bad), and the rest is good, yellow fleshy fruit also not unlike a plum, but not quite as juicy.  Eaten hard and green (and sour!!) with salt, and sasón (which is not quite ripe but not green), and around Easter sold ripe and cooked on the street.  A great street snack – but I have friends who have gotten quite sick from them, so like all fruit that you eat the skin of better to bring them home and wash them first!

Nacatamales – similar to Mexican tamales, but larger, usually made with pork, and if they are all like the one I had last night, saltier. Soft cornflour dough around rice, pork, potatoes, tomatoes, onions and mint, all beautifully wrapped in a banana leaf and tied with string, then boiled. Traditionally eaten with coffee and a roll or tortilla.

Tostones – double-fried green plantains. Plantains are cut into chunks, fried, then smashed flat and fried again. Greasy, and good. An excellent substitute for french fries.

Chia con TamarindoChia suspended in Tamarind Juice, served cold like lemonade. Chia are seeds of Salvia Hispanica, a plant in the mint family. They are tiny little seeds that become mucilaginous when soaked, like flax seeds. They are super high in omega 3 fatty acids. And, apparently in Mexico they eat them sprouted, and someone started selling little ceramic animals so the sprouts stood up like hairs on their backs. Which inspired…chia pets!

Gallo Pintoliterally, speckled rooster. Actually, red beans and rice.

Cojolitoslittle fruits, similar to cherries, that have very think tough skins and are super sour, like eating fresh raw cranberries. People eat them with salt!

5 Responses to “Comida Nicaragüense”

  1. Tania Arands Says:

    i just wanted to say that it is Nispero not nisporo and its Vigoron not vigeron oh and that cajetas de coco do not have yuca in them but other than that awesome job very interesting

  2. Lola Stanton Says:

    Katie, you did very well. I am impressed. I am from Nicaragua and just got back from a month’s stay there. Some of the mistakes you made, not many. Spelling: vigoron, nispero, coyolito, albondigas. I did not know that cajeta de coco had yuca. Are you sure? Also you did not mention “buenuelos” made from cheese and yuca, served with a light syrup as a dessert. Out of this world.
    Best Lola

  3. Katie Murphy Says:

    Dear Raquel,

    I love your new name! And I love hearing about the beautiful new (to me for sure) world of Nicaragua. I love hearing about the dropped endings of espanol de Nic. I think I have heard that Spanish in Cuba is like that too. My Spanish is spotty and getting spottier so I’m envious of your opportunity to get completely fluent while you are changing the world. Your images so far are beautiful so keep on putting them up on your site for those of us who are hankering for latino culture. And could you also once in awhile put yourself in some of your photos so we can visually place you better? Y Coma un poco tostones para mi por favor, YUM! besos, Katie

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