The Exotic and Tempting Ethnic Food of Panama

The Ethnic Food of Panama
The ethnic food of Panama is as diverse and rich as the heritage of this country. There are a number of great dishes that show the influence of the European, American, Spanish, Asian and African populations in this country.
Quick Fact
Panama's national dish is sancocho. A traditional Sunday meal, this chicken stew is often flavored with corn on the cob, culantro, and garlic.
Located between Central and South America, on a narrow strip of land, Panama is a country that is known for its diverse population which includes Spanish, African, Asian and other indigenous people. The food of this country is influenced by the multitude of cultures and food traditions that the different cultures have brought with them.

Apart from the arrival of the Europeans in America, one of the key factors that changed the course of Panama's food culture is the construction and existence of the famous Panama Canal. The presence of this canal led to the introduction of many foreign cultures in the country. It obviously influenced the food culture as well, making it the perfect "melting pot" of Western and Eastern food.

The country is also home to seven major indigenous cultures like the Kuna and Embera Indians who have remained untouched by modernity. Like all cultures, food is an integral part of the Panamanian culture. From the everyday food available at street-side eateries, known as fondas, to the food made especially during celebrations, the people here enjoy a wide variety of dishes. Most of the dishes tend to be salty instead of being spicy. The dishes range from familiar Latin American cuisine like tortillas, to exotic dishes made with local produce and spices. Many of the dishes have corn products in it. Here are some of the popular foods and drinks of this country.
Popular Ethnic Dishes of Panama
The dishes of Panama are heavy in proteins and starches. This is because of the abundance of seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, like coconuts, yucca root and plantain. Most of the traditional food does contain rice, meat, beans and coconut. Fried food is also quite commonplace, and so are recipes with fish and varieties of herbs.
Breakfast
Arepas: A typical breakfast (Desayuno) consists of corn flour tortillas and Arepas that are topped or stuffed with beans, cheese and eggs.
Arepas
Arepas
Hojaldras: A typical breakfast food is Hojaldras which refers to sugar-sprinkled doughnuts.
Hojaldras
Hojaldras
Gallo Pinto: Another traditional breakfast dish is Gallo Pinto which actually translates to "spotted rooster." It is made with beans, rice and sometimes proteins, like pork, beef or mixed seafood. A number of traditional restaurants serving ethnic Panamanian cuisine will have this dish.
Gallo Pinto
Gallo Pinto
Main Dishes
Arroz con pollo: One of the popular main dishes is Arroz con pollo (Rice with chicken). Made with rice and browned chicken, this simple one-pot meal is easy to make and quite delicious, especially when additions like ham and bell peppers are made to it.
Arroz con pollo
Arroz con pollo
When the rice is cooked with salted cod fish it is known as Arroz con bacalao and when it is cooked with vegetables it is known as Arroz con puerco y vegetales.
Arroz con bacalao
Arroz con bacalao
Arroz verde or green rice is made by cooking rice with a paste of spinach and cilantro. Arroz con guandu is rice cooked in coconut milk with beans and spices.
Arroz verde or green rice
Arroz verde or green rice
Sancocho: Sancocho is a traditional stew in Panama and many other Latin American countries. In Panama the Sancocho de gallina is made with chicken or fish along with tomatoes and coriander. Yuca, mazorca, garlic and onions are some of the additions that are made to the dish. There are many variations of this dish in different regions. For example, Sancocho chiricano made in the ChiriquĆ­ Province contains squash as one of the main ingredients.
Sancocho
Sancocho
Ropa Vieja
Ropa Vieja
Ropa Vieja: The word Ropa Vieja literally translates to old clothes" in Spanish. It refers to a delicious beef stew that is made with cooked and shredded flank steak, along with garlic, onions, bell pepper and diced tomatoes. It is flavored with bay leaves and cumin.
Ceviche: Chopped raw fish, marinated in lime juice and mixed with tomatoes, onions and cilantro, ceviche is popular all around the world. It is often served with plantain chips and mouth-watering coconut rice.
Ceviche
Ceviche
Corvina: Local sea bass, also known as corvina, is quite popular in Panamanian cuisine. It is often fried or baked and served with lemon slices.
Corvina
Corvina
Tamales: The corn dough rolls are stuffed with pork and chicken. They are then wrapped in banana leaves and boiled.
Tamales
Tamales
Side Dishes and Snacks
Empanadas: These meat-filled deep-fried pastries are extremely popular in Panama, especially with the street vendors on the busy streets of Panama City. Usually, ground beef is used for the stuffing but sometimes vegetables, potatoes and cheese is used as well.
Empanadas
Empanadas
CarimaƱolas: Yuca fritters stuffed with meat, vegetables or cheese are a great snack food available in Panama. These fried fritters are served with suero, a fermented milk condiment.
Patacones: Patacones are fried thick green plantains. These plantains are fried in oil and then smashed with a mortar or pestle to make them flat. They are then seasoned with salt and pepper.
Patacones
Patacones
Deserts and Drinks
Fruits are usually served as deserts but sometimes, cakes soaked in evaporated milk and cream, known as Pastel de tres leches, or egg custards known as Flans, is also served.
Flans
Flans
In the summer months, Raspados which are ice topped with sweet syrup can
be served.
Raspados
Raspados
Drinks like seco, a fermented sugarcane juice, is quite popular. It is often mixed with milk or sweet, citric fruits to make it flavorful. If you love your alcohol, then check out some local beer brands like Balboa, Atlas, and Panama Cerveza.
Panamanians also love juices, and many restaurants as well as roadside vendors offer Chichi. Made with single-flavor juiced fruits or more unusual like chicha con arroz y pina, which is made from boiled pineapple skins and rice, Chichi is loved by one and all.
Besides the selection of amazing ethnic food, Panama also has a selection of great Middle Eastern, French, American and Chinese cuisine, a legacy of the workers from all around the world who came to work here on the canal. You can typically find "kebabs" a Middle Eastern dish on the roadside stalls. The ethnic cuisine can be sampled on roadside stalls and in upscale restaurants. If you are traveling to the country, then make sure you try the range of great food choices in this country. It is sure to scintillate your taste buds and, as a traveler, you are sure to have a culinary experience of a lifetime.