Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Getting ¨Casado¨ in Costa Rica. No, not married….read on!

If you are looking for one of the best and tasty deals to be found in Costa Rica, think about getting ¨married¨. Wait, wait, wait, no need to run screaming, ¨married¨ is the English translation for the most popular dish in all of Costa Rica…..the ¨Casado¨, where rice and beans are ¨married¨, and served with other common local ingredients.
To be perfectly honest, Costa Rican cuisine is not a show stopper, in fact it can be downright plain for those that prefer to challenge their palate, but that doesn’t mean it is not good or that you will not enjoy eating like the locals do. In Costa Rica, rice and beans are the standard ¨Tico¨ fare, and they are generally consumed in some form or another in all three daily meals, and it is a great nutritious option.
Starting with the ubiquitous ¨Gallo Pinto¨ (painted rooster) served for breakfast, this delicious and filling mix of rice and beans, chopped cilantro, sweet chili, and onion is served almost every morning with sour cream and/or the famous ¨Lizano Salsa¨, along side eggs, tortillas, and perhaps a slice of cheese, and followed later in the day by the ¨Casado¨.
Served at almost any ¨Soda¨ be it the Pacific Coast, the Caribbean Coast or everywhere in between, the ¨Casado¨ is always your best bet while visiting Costa Rica. Most commonly this popular ¨typical¨ dish consists of a chopped cabbage and tomato salad, fried sweet plantains, picadillo (a mix of chopped potatoes, carrots, green beans in a light tomato sauce), a choice of chicken, fish, or meat, often times a hard-boiled egg and/or a slice of fresh salty, slightly smelly white cheese, and of course…..don’t forget the rice and beans!
For anyone thinking this does not sound particularly appetizing, you will be pleasantly surprised, as the ¨Casado¨ is not only delicious, but it is a plate load of food worthy of two appetites. There are economic reasons for the creation of this ¨tipico¨ dish. Though richer than some of its neighbors, Costa Rica is nonetheless still considered a poor country, and its native residents never had the money to develop a sophisticated cuisine or palate as their culinary tradition evolved over the decades. Thus this cheap and nutritious marriage of rice and beans caught on as the typical ¨workman´s lunch¨.
For those of you who are worried about the safety of food in Costa Rica or their ¨Sodas¨, you needn’t be overly concerned. Costa Rica doesn’t have the risks that many other Central American countries are known for, but there are a couple of things that you should keep in mind while visiting. Pesticide control is not as strict as the USA, so wash fruit and vegetables before eating them and if you’re eating something that’s peeled, it’s best if it was you that peeled it. Also, when deciding to eat out, the fancier restaurants are not always the cleanest, so in fact, eating where the locals eat is often the safest way to go.
So the next time you find yourself driving the back roads of Costa Rica (they all feel like back roads in Costa Rica), we highly recommend you try the ¨Casado¨ to not only fill your hungry belly, but to avoid putting a dent in your wallet, leaving more money to take home that famous Costa Rica coffee!
The other ¨married¨ you were thinking of?.......Well we’ll just leave that decision up to you!

Author: Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.