Probably my biggest problem in Somoto up to this date has been the diversity of food-or lack thereof. It has been a world of difference coming from Vancouver where there are Asian and Indian supermarkets on every corner and Iranian, Arabic, Israeli, Latin American and European markets on every second.Vancouver truly is a foodies dream and has fuelled my culinary divulgences and explorations for the last five years. I have also become used to having all kinds of spices and ingredients on hand whenever I want. Even living in a semi-residential area in Vancouver we had a Japanese, Philippine, Sri Lankan,Indian,Russian, Vietnamese, and Korean grocer all within less than 5 blocks. In retrospect it seems excessive, I would be happy with just any single one of those here to, quite literally, spice things up a little bit.
Here there is one single supermarket in town and a few distributors (corner-stores) that sell exotic wares like peanut butter and olive oil. Going shopping is easy when there is only one type of each product- one type of rice(white), one type of bean(red), one type of oil (corn). The three main spices you can buy at the local supermarket Pali(owned by Walmart) are oregano, pepper, and salt. For flavour, people will generally add maggi cubes, essentially pure MSG, and a paste called achiote, which is a red, rather flavourless paste used mainly for colouring.Whenever I go to the nearest big city, Esteli, I almost always pee my pants in anticipation of buying paprika,chocolate, whole wheat flour, and any kind of bean other than red beans.
The basic diet here reflects that lack of diversity: Beans,rice,plantain,cheese,meat,tortillas and salt is the staple diet of most of Nicaragua. Fried. In various combinations but almost always fried. With salt. Period. The standard meal here will have some of the following: Gallo Pinto(fried rice and beans made seperately than fried again together), maduros (fried ripe plantains), tostones (fried Green plantain), Tajadas(deep fried green plantain), Queso (cheese), Carne/Pollo asado (grilled beef/pork/chicken). Like most places in the world affected by the “green revolution”, mass production of simple carbohydrate-heavy grains and tubers means that they are often cheapest so a typical days meals could look like this:
Street food are slight variations of the basic diet. They have tacos (deep-fried tortillas stuffed with shredded chicken), enchiladas (deep-fried tortillas stuffed with shredded chicken and with cheese on top), another thing that they call enchilada (which is like an empanada except-you guessed it- fried), and repochetas (deep fried tortillas stuffed with cheese).
But not all is at loss. Somoto does boast some slightly more exotic and upscale food for when I get tired of the monotony. There is a place that sells pupusas from El Salvador (fried tortillas stuffed with fried beans and deep fried pork), 2 places that sell mexican Tacos (tortilla with grilled meat and cheese on top) and Pizza (I know,weird, but also not fried). And finally there is Somoto’s most up-class restaurant which features, wait for it, fried FISH(!) and grilled meat. on skewers(!!). Pass the salt, please.
For a different review of Nicaraguan food with sweet pictures (including the ones I stole) check out Globetrottergirls