Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  

Good Panamanian cookbooks and recipes?

Recommended Posts

Back in the late 80's, I was lucky enough to spend a year living in Panama City, working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research institute (STRI) as a research assistant. While there, I fell in love with the food. The best tamales I have ever had (and very different from Mexican tamales). Fantastic ceviche. Wonderful, filling soups. Some of the best Chinese food I have ever had, believe it or not, since many Chinese helped build the Panama Canal, so there is a large Chinese population. Wonderful fresh breads similar to Cuban breads. Wonderful fish dishes with coconut from the San Blas Islands. A sort-or tamale casserole called tamale de olla.

I have not been able to find either a good Panamanian cookbook or a good Central/Latin American cookbook with a decent selection of Panamanian recipes. I have found a few recipes here and there on the internet, but none I have really loved.

Does anyone know of any good cookbooks with Panamanian recipes? English preferred but my Spanish, although rusty, is good enough to do OK with a Spanish cookbook.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have this one:

Cocina Panameña

We lived in Panama for four years back in the late 70's. In fact, my third child was born in Gorgas Hospital in the Zone. We lived on the Atlantic side (Colon) for the first year, and then moved to the Pacific side. Like you, I loved living there and have far too many fond memories to count.

I have several cookbooks that I collected when I lived there, but now refer most often to Cocina Panameña. It's in English and Spanish, and I recommend it.

Here's another: Recetas de Mi Suegra. Smaller, but also with good information about the dishes, produce, etc., of Panama, and also in both English and Spanish.

We came back to the US in 1980, so you were there not too much after us. Did you go to the Restaurant de las Americas in Panama City? I hear it's still there. We loved the Corvina Almondine. And how about the Balboa Yacht Club? Legendary. Absolutely legendary to sit there and watch the boats tie up while they waited to transit the canal. It was an open-air bar, close enough to the water that you could throw a stick in, if you had a notion. Large ceiling fans kept the humid air moving as best they could, but never enough to make you forget you were in the sultry tropics. Lots of places claim to be "the crossroads of the world," but the Balboa Yacht Club really was. There was a bulletin board where folks posted notices requesting deckhands for everything from just transiting the canal (you needed four rope-handlers and people with small sailboats, yachts, etc., often had only two, so you could sign on with them for just a day's transit), to captains looking for professional deckhands to sail off to some exotic location on the other side of the world aboard a ship likely named the "Something-or-other Maru." It was hard not to expect Sydney Greenstreet to walk into that bar at any moment. The building burned not too long ago, and I felt as sad in my heart as if I'd lost a close friend.

How about the batidas in the shops along Avenida Congrejo? And the Panamanian ceviche is still my personal favorite, although I know the Peruvians say the Panamanians "cook" their ceviche too long. Shopping at the Chinese roadside produce stands will always be a favorite memory. You'd load up the car with just-picked tomatoes, squash, etc. And pineapples, mangos, melons. When you got into your car, the entire vehicle was perfumed with the aromas of the fresh fruit.

How about the Mongolian Barbecue out at Ft. Amador? And riding the train through the jungle from the Pacific side to the Atlantic side? Did you know that baseball great Rod Carew was born on that train?

And up to the Indian markets in the mountains and highlands around Davao, David, Chiriqui.

Poking around the "boot" of the old part of Panama City, and watching the Spanish dancers in the ruins of Panamá Viejo.

Hopping a flight in a 4-seater light aircraft over to San Blas Islands to haggle for some molas. Exploring Nombre de Dios and Porto Bello and Ft. San Lorenzo, and imagining what it must have been like for the early Spaniards hauling gold to the waiting galleons.

Yep. I loved Panama.

A whole lot.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I found a website that might interest you: Recetas del Caribe

"Recetas del Caribe" was the cookbook published by the Ft. Kobbe Officers' Wives' Club in the 1950's, and is one of the cookbooks in my collection.

The website belongs to a woman that is reproducing the book online, page by page. She found the book in a trunk of things belonging to her mother. My copy of the book is falling apart and is now held together with rubber bands, so I appreciate having copies of the pages online.

Interesting blast from the past.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, it's nice to hear from someone else who lived there. I was there in '87-88. An interesting time politically, I was there for the coup attempt in the spring of '88. And thanks for the cookbook recommendations. I have Recetas de mi Suegra on my Kindle. I need to get the one you recommended.

I worked at the STRI lab on Isla Naos, so I went through Fort Amador on my way to work every day, and have been to the Yacht Club several times. I loved how they would wrap the palm trees on the causeway I used to go to lunch at the little restaurant at the YMCA in Balboa several times a week, because I made almost nothing as a lab assistant, and it was cheap. Excellent tamales, the big square ones wrapped in banana leaf with lots of culantro (not cilantro!) and a big piece of chicken in the middle. They also had excellent chicken fried rice, which the Panamanians who went there inexplicably doused in ketchup.

As far as other cheap restaurants, there was a place on Via Espana that had fantastic soup and pressed sandwiches, similar to Cuban media noches, that the bank workers downtown frequented. There was a great Argentine place that served whole corvina grilled with TONS of garlic, but I can't remember the name of the place.

For nights out, several of us often went to El Trapiche on Via Argentina for dinner (tamale de olla!!) then next door to Manolos for coffee and churros (apple filled were my favorite). I also remember a place called Las Tinajas, where they had women dressed in the Polleras doing traditional dances - it was beautiful and the food was very good. There was also a really good German restaurant that was a special occasion thing, but I can't remember the name of that one either.

Of course, anyone who visited Panama had to go to Las Cascadas just once for the experience. The food sucked but it was worth it to see the spectacle of Las Cascadas and to read the terribly translated menu.

When we would go to the countryside, I loved to get the fire roasted cashews in the little paper bags. And I agree about the produce. We would make a weekly trip to the big fruit and vegetable market.

The street food - hojaldres and patacones in the little places on Avenida Central. The pipas (immature coconuts) that you could get for a quarter - the seller would lop the top off with a machete and stick in a long paper straw, so refreshing on a hot day.

Porto Bello was gorgeous. And the flight to San Blas scared the crap out of me, landing on El Porvenir. I loved going there though, staying at the Hotel San Blas on Wichub Walla, in the little thatch huts. They made the best spiny lobster and coconut rice.

My typical weekends, when I wasn't working, consisted of at least one day lying on the beach at Isla Taboga. The round trip ferry was just a few bucks and there was cheap beer at the restaurant hotel.

So do you have any good favorite recipes from Panama?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By Mutleyracers
      Hi all. I hope you are well. I am just into baking bread due to lockdown and need help. Ideally I would like modernist bread but the wife is not quite agreeing to that yet. So I would like some where to start for now until she comes around to the idea. After she has tasted all my amazing breads I make. 
      I would like this to be in metric rather than imperial.
      Thank you 
    • By Burmese Days
      Hello everyone,
      This is my first post, so please tell me if I've made any mistakes. I'd like to learn the ropes as soon as possible. 
      I first learned of this cookbook from The Mala Market, easily the best online source of high-quality Chinese ingredients in the west. In the About Us page, Taylor Holiday (the founder of Mala Market) talks about the cookbooks that inspired her.
      This piqued my interest and sent me down a long rabbit hole. I'm attempting to categorically share everything I've found about this book so far.
      Reading it online
      Early in my search, I found an online preview (Adobe Flash required). It shows you the first 29 pages. I've found people reference an online version you can pay for on the Chinese side of the internet. But to my skills, it's been unattainable.
      The Title
      Because this book was never sold in the west, the cover, and thus title, were never translated to English. Because of this, when you search for this book, it'll have several different names. These are just some versions I've found online - typos included.
      Sichuan (China) Cuisine in Both Chinese and English Si Chuan(China) Cuisinein (In English & Chinese) China Sichuan Cuisine (in Chinese and English) Chengdu China: Si Chuan Ke Xue Ji Shu Chu Ban She Si Chuan(China) Cuisinein (Chinese and English bilingual) 中国川菜:中英文标准对照版 For the sake of convenience, I'll be referring to the cookbook as Sichuan Cuisine from now on.

      There are two versions of Sichuan Cuisine. The first came out in 2010 and the second in 2014. In an interview from Flavor & Fortune, a (now defunct) Chinese cooking
      magazine, the author clarifies the differences.
      That is all of the information I could find on the differences. Nothing besides that offhanded remark. The 2014 edition seems to be harder to source and, when available, more expensive.

      In the last section, I mentioned an interview with the author. That was somewhat incorrect. There are two authors!
      Lu Yi (卢一) President of Sichuan Tourism College, Vice Chairman of Sichuan Nutrition Society, Chairman of Sichuan Food Fermentation Society, Chairman of Sichuan Leisure Sports Management Society Du Li (杜莉) Master of Arts, Professor of Sichuan Institute of Tourism, Director of Sichuan Cultural Development Research Center, Sichuan Humanities and Social Sciences Key Research Base, Sichuan Provincial Department of Education, and member of the International Food Culture Research Association of the World Chinese Culinary Federation Along with the principal authors, two famous chefs checked the English translations.
      Fuchsia Dunlop - of Land of Plenty fame Professor Shirley Cheng - of Hyde Park New York's Culinary Institute of America Fuchsia Dunlop was actually the first (and to my knowledge, only) Western graduate from the school that produced the book.

      Here are screenshots of the table of contents.  It has some recipes I'm a big fan of.
      ISBN 10: 7536469640   ISBN 13: 9787536469648 As far as I can tell, the first and second edition have the same ISBN #'s. I'm no librarian, so if anyone knows more about how ISBN #'s relate to re-releases and editions, feel free to chime in.
      Sichuan Science and Technology Press 四川科学技术出版社  
      Okay... so this book has a lot of covers.
      The common cover A red cover A white cover A white version of the common cover An ornate and shiny cover  There may or may not be a "Box set." At first, I thought this was a difference in book editions, but that doesn't seem to be the case. As far as covers go, I'm at a loss. If anybody has more info, I'm all ears.
      Buying the book
      Alright, so I've hunted down many sites that used to sell it and a few who still have it in stock. Most of them are priced exorbitantly.
      AbeBooks.com ($160 + $15 shipping) Ebay.com - used ($140 + $4 shipping) PurpleCulture.net ($50 + $22 shipping) Amazon.com ($300 + $5 shipping + $19 tax) A few other sites in Chinese  
      I bought a copy off of PurpleCuture.net on April 14th. When I purchased Sichuan Cuisine, it said there was only one copy left. That seems to be a lie to create false urgency for the buyer. My order never updated past processing, but after emailing them, I was given a tracking code. It has since landed in America and is in customs. I'll try to update this thread when (if) it is delivered.
      Closing thoughts
      This book is probably not worth all the effort that I've put into finding it. But what is worth effort, is preserving knowledge. It turns my gut to think that this book will never be accessible to chefs that have a passion for learning real Sichuan food. As we get inundated with awful recipes from Simple and quick blogs, it becomes vital to keep these authentic sources available. As the internet chugs along, more and more recipes like these will be lost. 
      You'd expect the internet to keep information alive, but in many ways, it does the opposite. In societies search for quick and easy recipes, a type of evolutionary pressure is forming. It's a pressure that mutates recipes to simpler and simpler versions of themselves. They warp and change under consumer pressure till they're a bastardized copy of the original that anyone can cook in 15 minutes. The worse part is that these new, worse recipes wear the same name as the original recipe. Before long, it becomes harder to find the original recipe than the new one. 
      In this sense, the internet hides information. 
    • By TexasMBA02
      After batting about .500 with my previous approach to macarons, I came across Pierre Herme's base recipe online.  After two flawless batches of macarons, I've been re-energized to continue to work at mastering them.  Specifically, I want to try more of his recipes.  My conundrum is that he has, as far as I can tell, two macaron cookbooks and I don't know which one I should get.  I can't tell if one is just an updated version of the other or a reissue or what the differences really are.  I was hoping somebody had some insight.  I have searched online and haven't seen both books referenced in the same context or contrasted at all.
      This one appears to be older.

      And this one appears to be the newer of the two.

      Any insight would be helpful.
    • By K8CanCook
      Update!! --- the sale is still going on at Amazon as of Sunday (11/24) at 11:15am EST
      Did anyone note the sale price on Modernist Cuisine today (maybe yesterday)? Amazon and Target dropped the set of tomes to $379!!!
      This price looks like it will change after today...so get it ASAP!!!

    • By Bollo
      I need a book on the application of rotavapor machine. I've searched something on web but i can't find something strictly professional for the kitchen please help me. To improve the research. 
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...