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eG Foodblog: Panaderia Canadiense 2019 - EAT! Empanadas, Arepas, Tortillas and Other Ambato Food On the Go


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Hello, oh wonderful eGulleteers! I know I've been away a while, but at least I'm coming back in style.

 

Not a whole lot has changed here in Ecuador - it's still definitely paradise, and the big Market still runs on Sundays and Mondays. I'll be off towards that shortly, to shop for the week and also to search out some of the food I want to feature in  this blog - namely, the quick breads and munchies on the go that Latin America is justifiably famous for!

 

So what am I waiting for? It's time to EAT!

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Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

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 How do you say fabulous in Ecuadorean.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

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Well, while I wait for my (many, many @teonzo, I promise!) photos and video from the Mercado Mayorista to upload from my phone...  Let's talk about the three main features of this particular blog.  Namely, Empanadas, Arepas and Tortillas, and what differentiates them in the Ecuadorian mind.

 

  • Empanadas are probably the broadest category: they're filled pocket breads.  Fillings can be sweet or savoury, the outer bread can be made of just about any starch that will form a quasi-coherent dough, and the final product can be baked, grilled, or fried.  Ecuadorians make the distinction amongst empanadas mostly based on fillings - empanadas dulces are snack and dessert items with sweet, fruity fillings; empanadas de sal are often full meals in and of themselves and are filled with savoury things, often meats and sauces.  The various styles of cheese empanadas run a delicate line between the two, depending on the type of cheese and the type of grain used in the wrapper.  Most bakeries carry the sweet empanadas de queso that are part of the traditional Ecuadorian breakfast of coffee and an empanada - I'll actually go in search of these at some point this week, because the bakery just up the hill from my house is justifiably famous for theirs.  Ambato is also famous for Empanadas de Morocho, about which more later - getting these will entail a trip on Monday or Tuesday to Morocho King, one of my favourite specialty places.  Ecuador's native variety of empanadas is nearly infinite, but it doesn't stop there - one can also find Colombian, Chilean, and Venezuelan styles on the streets, usually from roaming vendors.

 

  • Arepas are a particular class of flat fry-breads, normally with a savoury filling.  This is going to be an interesting bit of this blog, because in Ecuador you'll encounter not just the traditional Ecuadorian arepas but also the Colombian and Venezuelan versions of the breads, which are very different from the Ecuadorian ones despite using the same name.  I'll be seeking out the Arepas of all three countries this week, because I like them all and because the difference is huge but it's also a bit difficult to describe.  The main point is that Colombia and Venezuela use the word to define filled corn breads only, where Ecuador is less concerned with the bread than the presence of the filling and the method of cooking.

 

  • Tortillas in Ecuador are any soft, non-baked bread with no filling; they're usually a bit salty and served as an accompaniment to feature dishes.  The one exception to this rule is the Llapingacho, which is the centre-of-the-plate star of Ambato's signature dish; this is a potato and cheese tortilla that forms the actual main course, and everything else (chorizo, salads, avocado, fried egg) is considered to be sides.  BUT!  Ecuador also recognizes the Mexican-style flour and corn tortillas under this name, which are more like flatbread food wrappers, and uses both in fusion dishes.  I'll be visiting the best holes-in-the-wall and market stalls in search of the perfect tortillas this week, and may also get some handmade hard taco shells from my local mini market.
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Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

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Alright!  Let's start with the Mercado Mayorista, the Ambato Wholesale Market, which is located in Ambato's south end, and I've taken you there along with me on two of my last three foodblogs.  This is Ecuador's largest wholesale and farmer's market, with an overall area just slightly smaller than Vatican City; it's about a $2 cab ride from my house these days.

 

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Just outside of this market is my first stop: Doña Lidia, who has a small stand where she prepares Arepas de Loja.  This stand only appears on Sunday mornings in the stairwell door between a butcher's shop and a restaurant on Avenida El Condor, and it's only really big enough to accommodate Lidia's frypan, a two-burner cart, and Lidia herself - she folds her umbrella at the sides to fit into the doorway.  This kind of eatery is the very definition of a "hueca popular" - a hole in the wall snack stand.  Ambato is full of these, and everybody has their own favourites; Doña Lidia is one of mine.

 

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What she's making is the signature arepa of the province of Loja, which is the southernmost Sierra province of Ecuador.  These are corn pancakes stuffed with finely chopped green onion and a mild, creamy fresh cheese; they're cooked on steel surfaces in achiote oil, which gives them a characteristic colour and crunch

.961246938_250px-Loja_in_Ecuador_(Galapagos)_svg.png.f00bffac7210bfdb5364a58e983ec968.png (Loja)

 

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Arepas de Loja are 6 for $1.00; I know that I've got more eating to do, so I only bought 3.

 

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They're really hot!  Properly made Arepas de Loja are served while the cheese inside them is still piping hot and liquid, so the first bite is always a bit of a doozy.  There's a lot of cheese in them, too, more than is normally found in an Ecuadorian arepa.  These are my absolute favourite street food when it comes to the quick breads, but there are only two places in the city where they can even be found - Doña Lidia outside of the Mayorista, and Doña Petra in the Mercado America.  If Lidia hadn't been here, I'd have gone down to the other market in search of Petra.

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Now, onward into the market!  My list isn't that big this week, so I'm forgoing the Feria Popular (smallholder's market) at the top of the complex in favour of the Feria Baja (lower market).  Traffic is often pretty heavy around the Mayorista on Sundays and Mondays, and today is no exception, especially here near the Av. del Condor gates of the Feria Baja.

 

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This is fairly typical of the kind of thing you see in this market - everybody who's not occupying a formal stall under the roofs is a small farmer or grower peddling their goodies.  Of note is the lefthand cart, which is a charcoal grill specializing in Cordoñiz (whole marinated quail) and Mollejas (chicken gizzards).  I'm a big fan of the quail, which are $1 each, but I don't have room for them today.

 

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What's being sold in this sector varies wildly, from snacks, yogurt, fresh cheeses, fish, and whole plucked chickens, to household necessities, fruits and veggies.

 

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This first area is called the "Zona de Productores" and along with the Feria Baja, which is crammed in along the edges of the principal sidewalks, it houses the wholesale and retail stalls of local fruit orchards. (In this sense, "local" means any of the surrounding counties of the province, as well as the urban  orchards.) In June, which is winter, most of what's available are late-season apples and peaches, along with smaller fruits and berries.

 

This video is a walk down the main aisle of the entrance to the Zona de Productores.  It's pretty wild - I've wanted to show you all how overwhelming this market can be, and this gives a good idea of it.  Now we just need to figure out a way to transmit smells!

 

 

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I bought uvillas (the smaller golden berries, known in English as Cape Gooseberries), but chose not to take any Nispero (Loquat) home.  I'm also so tired of Tunas (prickly pears) that I left them as well, even though the season this year has been exemplary.  It's primarily peaches and mandarine oranges towards the lowland production sector of this roof, with a few Granadilla (white passionfruit) thrown in for variety. Strawberries and Mora (wild blackberry) are always on offer here.

 

However!  I was in the Zona de Productores for another reason (beyond delicious fruit, which is more than enough reason itself!)  Doña Soraya has her cart here, and it's one of the best places in Ambato to get Arepas de Guaranda.  These are large buckwheat pancakes stuffed with very salty fresh cheese, and they're part of the typical offerings of the city of Guaranda, in neighbouring Bolívar province.  Soraya and her family have been selling these arepas at the Ambato wholesale market for more than 100 years, dating back to when the market was simply a gathering in a farmer's field.  She no longer cooks them on a clay tiesto, she says because it's too hard to keep a good tiesto in one piece on a mobile pushcart.

 

165808033_250px-Bolivar_in_Ecuador_(Galapagos)_svg.png.c2d9c53961f470325015f6777ce8da59.png (Bolívar)

 

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Arepas de Guaranda are incredibly filling, despite not looking like a very large snack - I blame the buckwheat!  $1 gets you a hot arepa and a cup of Soraya's special horchata, an herbal tea based on hibiscus and anywhere from 20-40 other flowers and herbs; this one is served with a squirt of sweet lemon juice in it.  It's warming, refreshing, and the perfect thing to wash down the arepa.

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The next roof over from local orchards is usually called "tropical fruit" - it's produce from the coastal and amazon provinces.  This is where one comes for pineapple, mangoes, papaya, oranges, watermelon, and a number of other more exotic fruits, depending on the season - June is when Carambolas (starfruit), Grosella (Malay gooseberry), Achiotillo (rambutan), and Guayabana (soursop) are in season.

 

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(Esmeraldas - Achiotillos, grosella)           (Manabí - Pineapples, papaya, carambola)(Los Rios - Citrus, Melons, carambola)   (Guayas - Pineapples, papaya)

 

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(Napo - Achiotillos, guanabana)                 (Pastaza - Melons, pitahaya, Achiotillos) (Morona Santiago - guanabana, ginger).   (Pichincha - mangos, pineapples, papaya)

 

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Fruit is piled head-high in here - it's gold pineapple season on the coast, and the harvest has been good for the past month or so.  Pineapples are currently going for 2-3 for $1, depending on size.

 

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Still in Tropical Fruits, but off towards the back end of it, are the citrus sellers from Bolívar and Los Ríos.  The centre picture is Don Valencia, who represents the largest collective of juicing orange growers in the county of Caluma (which is famous for its oranges.) Don Valencia sells Washington, Valencia, Seville, and Ice oranges, large juicing mandarines, and white grapefruits.  Sellers from the orange growing areas make a 4-6 hour drive in 20 tonne trucks to make it to the Sunday Market, through one of the world's two highest-altitude road passes.  They'll often nap while other family members take care of sales.

 

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(Los Ríos)                                                       (Bolívar)

 

Orange sellers in this area sell their produce to commercial juice producers and restaurants in crates ($20 each) and sacks ($10), and to families in smaller bags of $1-2.

 

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I also missed showing you the guanabanas (soursops) - these cost between $3-5 depending on size, and sellers always have one fruit open for buyers to try before they commit to such a large purchase.  Also in this area are more obscure tropical fruits like the Borojó (foreground of the middle photo), which comes from the deeper Amazon.  This same vendor also has mangoes and cherimoya (custard apples).

 

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This video gives an elevated view into tropical fruits.  It's not piled as high as it has been in previous weeks - we're approaching the end of watermelon season and coconut season hasn't quite started yet.

 

 

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Next up, travelling down the rows of roofs, is green vegetables.  This is Sierra produce, and includes lettuce, spinach, cress, chard, Napa cabbage, three varieties of "classic" cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, celery, parsley and cilantro, other herbs, peas and beans, and also eggplant, squash, beets, turnips, white carrots, orange carrots, and taro.  This video gives you a short look into the nave, which is always bustling.

 

 

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(Tungurahua - we are here!).                       (Cotopaxi)                                                       (Cañar)                                                           (Chimborazo)

 

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The first photo shows a pair of Venezuelan porters, who make their living carrying 50-100 lb sacks of veggies for buyers.  They wanted to be part of this blog, and shout out to the world that even though their country is in crisis, the people are resilient.  I'll talk a bit more about the refugee crisis in Ecuador as the blog progresses; as has happened with waves of refugees in the past, it's changing and shaping how the city eats.

 

The middle photo is something I've wanted to show you all for three blogs now - a Kelly-Kettle potato seller.  This is a Kichua dish unique to Tungurahua and Cotopaxi, and consists of tiny new potatoes fried in spiced sausage fat.  If I'd had any room left, I'd have bought a bowl because these potatoes are one of the hidden gems of highland street food.  Kelly-Kettle sellers are almost all women from highland Kichua tribes; the best and most sought-after ones use a spicy lamb sausage along with the new potatoes.  This seller is from Quisapincha, which is uphill from Ambato to the northwest.

 

On the end is Doña Zoyla Grijalva, the president of the market's ambulatory vendor association, which is called Sabor Ambateño (Ambato Flavour).  Every food cart I've shown you in this market is part of this association; it was formed to protect the interests of the sellers, all of whom depend on their food carts to support their families.  Doña Zoyla has a big bowl of wood-fired Chaulafán de Pollo (chicken fried rice) which is, oddly enough, a part of Ambato's food canon.  The city accepted a wave of Chinese refugees in the late 1800s, and they brought their food traditions along with them, which were adapted to the Ambato palate and became part of the city's traditions.

 

 

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The final stop on this trip is Roof J, which is spices and dry grains.  I'm here, as always, to visit Especerías Doña Clarita in their only public location.  It looks a little deserted, and that's because most of the heavy business under Roof J happens around 5 am, when restaurants and smaller resellers arrive to buy grains in 120lb sacks.

 

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Doña Clarita, run by my good friend Kleber Shambi, is a specialty store that carries a huge variety of spices, herbs, nuts, dried fruits, and similar products.  The first photo in this series is Clarita, Kleber's wife and the company's namesake.  Inside, there are rows of jars with nuts, fruits, and spice blends; Kleber and his son Matías run the till.  I'm here this week to buy shredded coconut, oregano, mother of chocolate, peppercorns, and dates; Kleber is also where I buy my specialty flours, as he specializes in milling unusual grains (this is actually how the company started - milling cinnamon and other spices, and making oat, pea, and quinua flours.)

 

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He's recently started to bring in fresh ginger and turmeric root from Pastaza and Morona Santiago.  This is a wonderful development, because up until about three years ago, ginger was an import-only crop and turmeric was incredibly difficult to find.  Kleber himself imported rootstock to Ecuador for both crops and supports small family plantations in the Amazon basin provinces.  The result for me is that I can now get extremely fresh, extremely high quality rhizomes.

 

Around the corner are some of the rice sellers, including Doña Mari, from whom I buy most of my rice.  This is because I prefer a local cultivar of gold rice, and she's the only one in the market who represents those grower's cooperatives.  Right now, the variety called "Oso" is in season, and it's on sale for $0.25/lb.  Everything in the rice shops is Ecuadorian production from the provinces of Guayas and Los Rios; Ecuador is actually a net exporter of rice.  Despite this, there's not a lot of variety available, because of the national preference for medium-grain white rice.  I'm trying (with varying levels of futility) to get seedstock for other cultivars of rice, in the name of diversifying the crop and also, probably fairly selfishly, because I really like Red Cargo rice and miss eating it.

 

Just outside of the gates near the rice section, there are carts selling "31" or marinated, charcoal-grilled beef tripes.  This is something that smells absolutely divine, but I've never been able to bring myself to try it - I can't deal with the texture of tripes.

 

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The parking lot is full of wholesalers and resellers of rice and corn, who don't maintain shops under Roof J, preferring instead to sell directly off the tailgates of their trucks.

 

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3 minutes ago, Okanagancook said:

I would be interest to know what kind of cooking oil is used.

 

It varies widely depending on the dish, the cook, and the desired flavour.  The Arepas Lojanas are done in palm oil that's been infused with achiote (sold simply as "achiote oil"); the Arepas de Guaranda are cooked in sunflower oil; the potatoes in the Kelly-Kettle are in sausage fat, which for that cart in particular is spiced lamb fat.  The chaulafán de pollo uses either lard or butter depending on the cook; Doña Zoyla uses chicharrón lard, which contains little bits of crispy pork belly.  In the first video, there are deep-fried pig's trotters on one of the carts; these are fried in a mixture of lard and coconut oil.

 

Recently, soy, canola, and corn oils have been gaining a toehold in the commercial restaurant market, but they have less market presence due to Ecuador's constitutional restrictions on GMO foods.  These oils have to carry a large, conspicuous label that warns consumers that they are transgenic.  As a result, most people stick with the locally produced palm and sunflower oils.

 

Olive oil from Spain is considered to be a luxury product, although recent treaties have drastically reduced the price.  Ecuador also produces both peanut and avocado oil, most of which is exported to the North American and European luxury markets.

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Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

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And here's the haul!  Despite being surrounded by an incredible bounty (and I only showed you about 1/10 of the entire market this time) I came home with a relatively small number of things.  The total bill, including coconut and other spices, is just a hair over $20.  I'm not sure where mom found the Camotes (purple sweet potatoes) but I'm glad she did!  They're better, in my opinion, than orange ones.

 

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7 minutes ago, ElsieD said:

Beautiful produce.  What is mother of chocolate?

 

It's pure cacao paste that's been dried into tablets, at between 99 and 100% cocoa solids.  In Ambato, mother of chocolate is most often used as the basis for Chocolate Ambateño (the local style of hot chocolate), where it's dissolved in hot milk with a little bit of panela, and served with a piece of cheese at the bottom of the mug.

I use it in small amounts in cream ganache, as a bittering agent and to make the flavour profile more complex.

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Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

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Lunch!

 

After all those heavy arepas, Mom and I wanted something light and easy for lunch.  Bring on the Miss Caty!  This is Ecuador's answer to Lipton's instant noodle soups, but with a twist - it's convenient and it's relatively quick, but it's not instant.  Miss Caty soups are actual powders made by dehydrating big pots of traditional soups; this type includes hard durum wheat noodles.  As a result, they take about 20 minutes to make, because you have to wait for the noodles to completely cook.  This brand, promoted by a company called Incremar, belongs to an indigenous women's cooperative in Pichincha, which produces and dehydrates the soups in small batches.

 

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On the upside, they're very, very clean - there's nothing artificial by way of flavouring or preservatives in them, and only a small amount of MSG.  On the neat side, every lot number will have a slightly different flavour.  This one tastes as though it was cooked over wood fire - there's a distinct smoky note to it - and there are more onions in it than in previous lots (most of which had more carrots, as suggested by the picture on the front of the package).  The sachet makes three big mugs, which is just perfect for my family (me, Mom, and Stepdad.)

 

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Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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