The rains have touched down in Costa Rica and the season is upon us. Whether the cloudy afternoon skies or the downpours throughout some of the nights it brings a bit of coolness to the air as it comes down. It is the perfect time to try some of the heartier dishes of Costa Rica to take that damp chill out of your bones.
1. Olla de Carne
Olla de carne is a traditional soup regularly made in Costa Rica homes, regardless of what season it is. Depending on what day of the week it is you may also find it in some of the restaurants throughout the country.
Meaning beef stew, olla de carne is more of a hearty soup packed full of natural ingredients. Most of the ingredients are cut into large pieces whether in halves or quarters and is a simplistic yet beautiful soup in its serving style. It is a healthy soup that allows the natural flavors to speak all for themselves.
Made up of carne de res using beef stew meat and short ribs or simply just one if you prefer. It is all the substantial vegetables that fill up your bowl of chayote squash, yuca, onion, corn on the cob, plantain, sweet potatoes (yams), carrots, and peppers. Cilantro and other spices in the home finish off the aromatic soup bringing you a sense of comfort as you consume the wholesome soup.
It is one of the relied upon meals to help bring you back to life the day after a night of cervezas. Olla de carne gathers many of the vegetables on hand in the home into one flavourful and favorite soup making it an easy go-to soup to fill up many hungry and hungover bellies.
2. Sopa de Mariscos
When you order a bowl of sopa de mariscos (seafood soup) in Costa Rica you will be thoroughly impressed. It comes to you like a piece of art as the seafood piles high up through the surface of the soup. One of the best places to experience this wonder in a bowl is to find a marisqueria (a seafood restaurant) even though I have never been disappointed in any restaurant in Costa Rica that I have had the pleasure of eating in.
You will find there is a huge flavor profile difference if you order your sopa de mariscos without the coconut base. The coconut base brings a luxurious and velvety texture to the soup enhancing all the seafood within. Shrimp, crab, and mussels it is bursting with seafood and of course, served with a side of rice.
Seafood soups are traditional and much loved in Costa Rica with many other varieties across the country. With the Caribbean coasts rondon soup, fish soup of fish heads, and a Christmas time favorite for some of the bacalao soup featuring codfish.
3. Sopa de Mondongo
Not a typical soup you will find in many of the tourist restaurants throughout Costa Rica, but at one of the local sodas or your neighbor’s home is where you are most likely to find a bowl of mondongo. For those that have acquired a taste for the savory soup, it becomes one of their desired dishes on those chilly days when you want a warm bowl of goodness.
Sopa de mondongo is a tripe soup, meaning the lining of the cow’s stomach is the foundation of the meal. The traditional soup boils the seasoned meat down for several hours until it becomes tender then depending on your practice tomatoes and onions or your common root vegetables of carrots, potatoes, and chayote to make it a heartier and robust meal are added.
Served alongside a bowl of rice or tortilla it is a handed-down recipe customarily used to fill you up through a day of work but has evolved into a dish that many have come to love.
Whether it be a picadillo with potatoes or a picadillo with chayote the premise of the dish is ground beef with diced vegetables. Simple yet delicious. Like most of the dishes in Costa Rica, they seek to use what is readily available and economical. Costa Ricans are able to take basic ingredients and combine them in a way that you think the dish is much more complicated than it is from the depths of the flavors.
A combination of ground beef, squash or potatoes, corn, onions, peppers, and cilantro alongside some favorite household spices the dish evolves into a healthy and delish meal. Many will eat it just on its own with tortillas or as one of the ever so popular casados with rice and beans.
It is a dish that warms you up and leaves you feeling good.
The perfect accompaniment to a freshly brewed Costa Rican coffee whether it be at breakfast or as an afternoon treat the chorreada is a sweet and savory treat depending on what you are craving that day. If you haven’t tried one you can typically find them at one of the Costa Rican festivals throughout the country at the food stands and in some of the local sodas.
Made from freshly ground corn, it is a Costa Rican classic version of a pancake. These traditional pancakes aren’t fluffy like what one expects and are bigger and wider in their circular shape. They are somewhat in between a crepe and a pancake.
The corn is blended up with flour, milk, and depending on if they are sweet or savory, salt or sugar then heated up in some oil and you have your corn pancake.
Chorreadas are served as a savory side topped with a dollop of natilla (sour cream) or sprinkled with fresh cheese. For a simpler way to start the day, it is eaten with breakfast meat on hand and a delicious café. For a sweet treat, it is topped with honey or syrup.
Heading out for a fun meal is the perfect excuse to get out of the house on a rainy Costa Rican day. Meeting up with friends or locals at the soda, while the rains come down, and warming yourself up with some of your Costa Rica’s traditional cuisines is how some of the best memories are made.