It’s known as ‘the land of lakes and volcanoes’. Small wonder then, that this nation boasts the largest lake in Central America: a 8,264 kilometre-square body of freshwater riddled with more than 430 volcanic islands! But there’s a great deal more to Nicaragua than water and fire: it also enjoys the Americas’ second largest rainforest; a wealth of exotic fauna and the lowest population density in Central America…
The majority of the population make a living through agriculture, tourism, mining, and manufacturing, and poverty abounds. Despite this, the country has a lot going for it. It boasts the lowest crime rate of any Central American country and draws hordes of tourists with its fascinating culture and delicious cuisine. A cuisine that begins, of course, with gallo pinto.
Roughly translating as ‘spotted rooster’ thanks to its speckling of colour, gallo pinto is a particularly Nicaraguan combination of fried white rice, red beans, and diced onion. The dish also constitutes the base for another popular meal, desayuno típico. Particularly perfect in the morning, this ‘typical breakfast’ sees a mound of gallo pinto piled high with fried or scrambled eggs, diced onion and bell peppers, fried plantains, cheese, and a maize tortilla or two. And if there’s an extra hard day ahead, locals are known to load up their plates even further with pico de gallo (a tart salsa made from chopped tomato, onion, and serrano peppers, garnished with salt, lime juice, and cilantro), a spot of sour cream, and a hefty piece of blood sausage.
In other culinary news, there’s nacatamales (a maize flatbread stuffed with pork and veggies, and cooked in a plantain leaf); the tasty quesillo (a popular street food which consists of a cheesy tortilla with finely chopped pickled onion); and the ancient indio viejo, a thick soup made of maize dough with shredded beef and onion.
And, given that this is a land of lakes and volcanoes, we mustn’t forget fish or fruit – the volcanic earth produces particularly excellent coffee; an excellent way to end either a good meal.