Congratulations. You have decided to embark on a journey involving sloths, happiness and an eco-friendly “pura vida” (literally meaning “pure life”) for a period of time that I can guarantee will fly by too fast for comfort.
Be it the abolishment of an army, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, or the mega bio-diversity that attracted you to a study abroad program in the beautiful place that is Costa Rica, native Tican food is the extra icing on top.
Here are a couple of my personal favorites that you will most likely encounter (or should go out of your way to try) during your stay here.
1. Gallo Pinto
The direct translation is “spotted rooster,” which refers to its speckled appearance due to its essential ingredients: rice and beans. This is the classic breakfast dish in Costa Rica. Try it with some scrambled eggs and salsa lizano, a vegetable-based sauce that tastes akin to barbecue sauce.
This dish translates to “married man,” normally consisting of rice, beans, salad, fried plantains and an option of meat (i.e. chicken, fish, pork or steak). The name is thought to have derived from the idea that the rice and beans are married because they are always together.
I would hope for anyone’s marriage to be as delicious and nutritionally balanced as this dish.
It’s the most common dish in Costa Rica, so you can expect to find all sorts of versions and each one will be equally satisfying. The picture above features a vegetarian version with extra beans and a side of potato picadillo made of potatoes, bell peppers, onions, stock and spices.
3. Arroz Con Pollo
Literally, “rice with chicken.” ‘Nuff said.
Essentially, it’s the Latinoamericano version of a dumpling. Normally, they are made of corn dough and stuffed with seasoned meats or cheese, beans or potato stew, then folded and fried to your heart’s content.
5. Refrescos Naturales
If you come across a meal combo deal of an entrée and a refresco, DO IT. These natural, fresh squeezed fruit juices are mixed with water or milk. The fruit options you’ll come across include delicious native fruits of Costa Rica. The list extends to (but isn’t limited to):