The Kalu Yala Blog
October 21, 2012by Lara Willis
Posted In: Farm to Table Living, Wandering Thoughts
No surprises as to what I’m going to be blogging about…FOOD! Over the course of the past month I have captured pictures of my meals and will continue to do so over the next two so that no meal is missed out (though saying that at times I’ve forgotten to take a picture but nevermind!)
I love food; I love searching for recipes, buying the ingredients, chopping/peeling/grating and cooking them into fabulous creation! Most of all I love tasting and trying food which is why I was so excited to find out what a traditional Panamanian meal consists of, as well as anticipating what meals both our cook in Hispania (Linda) as well as the best darn valley chef ever (Largo) would prepare for us.
I think a lot of the interns will agree with me when I say that food is a big part of our lives out here in Panama! We always seem to be discussing it, what we want to eat, mainly vegetables and fruit or in contrast to that skittles and ice cream or what Linda (Hispania’s cook) will be making for lunch and dinner each day! We’ve loved it, hated it, tried new things and experienced high quality meals in the middle of the jungle we are quite the food connoisseurs now!
The biggest difference that I have found between Panamanian food and back home is the lack of vegetables and the amount of carbs and fried food that’s on offer. It’s ridiculous everything is fried fortunately Linda has understood that we are vegetable lovers and trying to cater to us needy interns in the best way she can – I still need to tell her that potatoes are considered in the carb family not the vegetable one!
So let me start at the very beginning with orientation week and heading out to the valley to experience proper food in a camping environment and eating possibly the tastiest food I’ve had in Panama. Largo is a talented cook, and considering he learnt from his predecessor the meals he provided us with are just delicious!
Valley Day 1 – Breakfast at the fonda in San Miguel:
This was really good and consisted of scrambled egg, chorizo and holjadras which I had never come across before but is typical in Panama. It’s basically a flat doughnuty bread thing that tastes pretty good especially if you add some sugar onto it! This was desperately needed before the intense 2 hour hike into the valley and I’m sure we burnt it off!
Valley Day 1 – Largo’s cooking us lunch.:
The anticipation for this was high, everyone had told us that Largo’s food is amazing so I was excited to try it. Little did I know that after this meal everything got better and better! He cooked a scrumptious lunch of meat tacos with a side of blackbeans!
Valley Day 1 – Dinnertime:
Dinner was needed after a long day of hiking and taking in the picturesque views as well as lounging by the swimming holes.
Largo was busy preparing a favourite of everyone’s and had PERFECT music to accompany the theme of the evening…of course it was Italian Cafe Night. This night will remain with me forever, the music played the atmosphere and laughter shared that night was truly unforgettable. On the menu tonight was spaghetti with tomato sauce and a side of outstanding eggplant (aubergine to my fellow Brits) parmesan.
Valley Day 2:
Unfortunately my stomach took over my memory for the most part of this day so I only have a picture of dinner but you’re in luck because this had to be the BEST blackbean burger I have ever tasted, I would go as far to say its a Largo speciality and should be sold in supermarkets worldwide!
To accompany this delicious burger we were delighted with fried patacones which are deep fried plantain and incredible…better than fries perhaps?!
Valley Day 3 – Breakfast at Basecamp:
As lying in is not an option in the Valley due to howler monkeys and the sun, Largo was up cooking us wait for it…french toast for breakfast, this was my first ever experience of this and I was pleasantly surprised, maybe even converted to this as a breakfast item! Naturally he also provided a large pot of coffee to wake up those that had had a heavy Abuelo filled night!
Valley Day 3 – Lunchtime:
This is a bit of an touchy subject for some of the interns because they went on a hike and missed out on a great lunch, they did however get to see Ramons Waterfall so maybe they had the better end of the deal by having peanut butter sandwiches instead! Ok, so lunch at basecamp was amazing as always nothing too fancy today just a good old chicken burger with all the trimmings cheese, tomato, onion, lettuce, mayo and ketchup (or hot sauce if you’re that way inclined). Did we beat the hikers…I’ll leave that to you all to decide!
Valley Day 4:
Oh yes its dinner and Largo is treating us to something that I did not believe was possible in his make-do kitchen so he excelled all expectation by making it Pizza night! The dough was made from scratch, Largo, Cory and Alice all set about making this before the hikers had made it back from the waterfall as its a long process making 19 pizzas on 3 burners!
Both vegetarians and meat eaters were catered for with a choice between lots of cheese and various vegetables or pepperoni and vegetables. It was gone in seconds and the best valley pizza ive ever eaten!
Valley Day 5 – Our final breakfast in the valley before the big hike up suicide hill:
We were again treated to an incredible meal, this time it was pancakes with maple syrup! Big, fat american pancakes filled the food gap that was necessary for the hike out. These were some of the best pancakes that I’ve had and definitely made for a great day! Do not worry that whole stack was not for me I shared it with a number of hungry interns!
Many more fabulous meals have been consumed in the Valley such as soups, rice and beans and apple cinnamon pancakes…Largo is not hindered by his lack of kitchen he makes fabulous meals with the limited space and resources that he has, I would be interested to see how anyone would cope as well as he has.
Panama City Dining.
So in Panama there is an abundance of restaurants to try, one of my favourite and a place that I like to go when I’m hungry after the hike and bus rides back from the Valley is Athens. This is a Greek restaurant that is extremely popular with the Panamanians and serves ridiculously good food at really reasonable prices! The first time a few of us interns went this is what we ate and continue to eat whenever we go:
Ladopsomo, this is a house special at Athens and consists of toasted pitta bread, chopped tomatoes, onions, grated feta cheese, olives, tzatziki, oregano and olive oil. Its amazing, someone will always order this when we go, oh and this picture is only their1/2 order!!
A traditional Greek salad with pitta on the side! It was good but not as fabulous as the ladopsomo!
Chicken gyro with fries. This is a dish I had never had before or come across. I was missing out! Inside the giant bread cone was chicken, tomato, onion, tzatziki,oregano and possibly more! Although the chicken was a little dry it was still oh so good and you have enough to take half away for another meal!
I could go on but I will capture more foody moments and combine them again in another post so for now I leave you with this…
My Panama Food Bio!
Favourite so far: Fried Patacones
Most missed: Although not quite food a cup of Yorkshire Tea. Oh and steak – Panamanian meat is just not the same!
Longing for day in day out: Vegetables and Salad Eat too much of here: Peanut butter on crackers
Best restaurant so far: Athens, a Greek restaurant close to Hispania where you get alot for your money and its delicious!