Not So Yucca-y: Ecuador Offers Amazing Street Food

Delicious bread, fried fruits and sweet drinks are part of the country’s eclectic casual food culture.

Besides their homemade food and their well-known traditional dishes (ceviche, prawns, and guinea pig), Ecuadorians have delicious street food that is inexpensive and satisfying.

Ecuadorian street food involves fresh local ingredients, such as corn and plantain, and a specific knowledge abut cooking and serving that has survived through generations. Empanadas, humitas, and salchipapas are among the main dishes.

Empanadas may use meat, vegetables, cheese, or fruit in Ecuador. Ecuadorians have morocho empanadas, prepared with a variety of corn and stuffed with rice, or green empanadas, made with plantain and cheese. The so-called empanadas de viento are fried and filled with a mix of cheese and sugar.

Humitas are part of the Andean culture, shared by Chile, Perú, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia. They are corn cakes wrapped in a corn husk and steam cooked. Humitas can be sweet or savory, and Ecuadorians may serve them with eggs, avocado, onions, and different spices.

Artisan market in Otavalo, Ecuador. *** Mercado artesanal, Otavalo, Ecuador. (Andrea Leon/Unsplash)

Corn is an essential part of Latin American cuisine that transcends humitas. In Ecuador, food stalls may serve choclo, a Peruvian variety of corn, with cheese and shredded meat.

“For a dollar, you can buy a cevichocho. It is delicious! You can get cevichocho anywhere on the street; it fills you up and is cheap! The dish has lupini beans, toasted corn, and chifle, which is sliced plantain. Cevichocho is bathed with a broth called ceviche, hence its name,” said Albert Oleaga, a Venezuelan living in Ecuador.

Ecuadorians from the coastal areas bake yucca bread. Made with white cheese, yucca starch, eggs and baking powder, it is an omnipresent fast-food delight.

Based on mashed green plantain, patacones are prevalent in Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and other South American and Caribbean countries. On the coast, patacones may be a side dish for eggs or meat.

Pinchos are grilled skewers ubiquitous in Ecuador. “Also known as chuzos, pinchos are street food. They can have ripe plantain, potatoes and sometimes chorizo. You can choose whatever you want; there are chicken and meat pinchos, too,” Oleaga said.

Ecuadorians prepare bolones with a dough of cooked and crushed green plantains and stuff them with cheese, chorizo, or chicharron. When served with a good coffee, fried eggs, and pepper, bolones are the perfect breakfast for Ecuadorians.

Salchipapas — a contraction between sausage and potatoes — are popular in many Latin American countries, including Ecuador.

“All around Quito, you will see salchipapa stalls. They are common and traditional. At the stalls, vendors serve a bed of French fries with a good-size sausage on top. They sprinkle them with salt and pepper. You can pour tomato sauce and add mayonnaise on your salchipapas or have them with onion salad or coleslaw,” said Oleaga.

Ecuadorian drinks are also famous.

Sweet drinks such as dry morocho and cracked corn grains — mixed with milk, cinnamon, sugar, and raisins — are widespread. Whether in a meeting, out in the street, or by themselves, Ecuadorians drink rompope, or milk punch. They can enjoy it warm or cold, with or without alcohol. To prepare rompope, Ecuadorians use milk, sugar, vanilla, orange peel, cream and sugar cane alcohol.

(Translated and edited by Gabriela Olmos. Edited by Fern Siegel.)