18 May Cultural Comfort Foods: Panamanian Edition

Comfort food is universal. While cuisines may vary from country to country, or even between different regions within the same country, there are always dishes that remind people of family, security, home. Sure, we can talk about greasy pizza, mac and cheese, or fudge brownies, but if you grew up in an international household or spent a significant period of time abroad, I’m sure you have some pretty eclectic comfort food cravings from time to time. Some of my favorite comfort foods are Panamanian in origin, since they remind me of family dinners growing up – arroz con coco y gandules, patacones, and carimañolas are among my favorites. Pretty standard Panamanian fare, but also incredibly delicious and comforting (especially when mom makes them)! Central and South American dishes overall are known for being simple, rustic and fresh, utilizing local ingredients - lots of fruits and veggies as well as local meat and seafood. Panamanian food in particular has a variety of influences, including traditions of native indigenous groups mixed with African, Spanish and Chinese cultures (yes, Chinese! There was a significant labor migration at the end of the 19th century to build the railroad system.) Of course, some dishes are easier to prepare than others. I’d rather not spend 2 hours peeling, cooking and mashing yucca, thankyouverymuch, but I’m more than happy to swap out water for coconut milk in my rice and double-fry some plantains.   (Carimañolas - too labor intensive for me to attempt, but...

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