I’ve always believed that there is no truer experience when traveling than when you truly understand the love of food through the soul of local cuisine. My passion for travel led me to jump into the unknown and join the Peace Corps after graduating college.
My assignment was to work in Youth & Families Development in Ecuador, a small country sandwiched between Colombia and Peru and sits right on the Equator. After 3 months of training, we were sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers and sent to our work sites which would be home for the next 2 years. My primary assignment was working with disabled youth in both a classroom setting and therapy setting ranging from sports to life skills development.
My host mom was from Esmeraldas, an Afro-Ecuadorian coastal town in Northwestern Ecuador. The cuisine relies on what’s native to the area: coconuts, green plantains, cassava and the abundant supply of fresh seafood. I was not a great cook, but my host mom insisted on teaching me. We chatted in my broken Spanish, sometimes even through post-it notes as I began learning new words while making Encocado, a traditional Creole dish from Esmeraldas. It was magical, not only because I cooked it without ruining it, but the true nature of cooking from scratch transformed me and laid the foundation for my love of great, simple food.
2 ½ lbs fresh shrimp or fish filets, cut into medium sized pieces
¼ cup lime juice (juice of about 2 limes)
Juice of 2 oranges
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground achiote or ground paprika
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
Pinch of salt
2 Tbsp oil
1 medium white onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
4 roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped finely
14 oz can of coconut milk
3 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
Fresh shredded coconut (optional)
Salt to taste
Fried green or ripe plantains