Those who expect to find spicy food anywhere south of the border will be disappointed in Costa Rican cuisine. It is not spicy, but it is tasty. Except for being a little heavy-handed with the grease, Ticos have a wholesome high-fiber diet, with rice and beans included in every menu. Lunch is the big meal of the day, and many businesses still give two hours off at lunchtime so that people can cake the bus back to mama's for a substancial casado. People often content themselves with soup and toast in the evening.
Those who stay in Costa Rica develop a certain affection for the noble bean, and a good gallo pinto is a real delight. Ticos who want to spice up their food usually have a jar of tiny pickled red and yellow chilies on the cable. Be wary of these: They are pure fire!
Sodas are small restaurants where you can get inexpensive snacks and light meals. They lino San José's streets and fill the Mercado Central. Following are some of the foods you'll run across at sodas countrywide.
sandwiches, usually made of meat, on a tasty but greasy bun.
arroz con pollo:
rice with chicken and vegetables.
cajeta de coco:
delicious fudge made of coconut, tapa dulce, and orange peel.
a place of rice, black beans, cabbage and tomato salad, meat or egg, picadillo, and sometimes fried plantaina.
raw sea bass cured in lemon juice with culantro (Chinese parsley) and onions—delicious.
pork rinds fried crisp and dripping with grease, sometimes with wiry hairs still sticking out.
corn pancakes, sometimes served with patilla.
are ice create cope dipped in chocolate.
dulce de leche:
a thick syrup made of milk and sugar.
roasted corn on the cob.
elote cocinado: boiled corrn on the cob.
corn turnovers filled with beans, cheese, or potatoes and meat.
the national breakfast disk of rice and beans fried together gallos—meat, beans, or cheese between two tortillas.
guiso de maíz:
fresh corra stew
a sweet drink made of roasted ground rice and cinnamon masamorra—corra pudding.
candies made from raw sugar.
milanes and tapitas:
small, foil-wrapped, puye chocolate candies, available in comer atores and restaurants all oven the country. Beware: these delicious little things are addictive.
sour cream, often more liquid than North American sour cream.
olla de carne:
literally "por of meat," but actually a meat soup featuring large pieces of chayote (a green, pear-shaped vegetable that grows on vines), ayote (a pumpkin-like squash), elote, yuca, plátano, and other vegetables.
palomitas de maíz:
"little doves," or popcorn.
a dark, sweet bread with batter designa on top—a Limón specialty.
pan de maíz:
a thick, sweet bread made with fresh corrí patacones—fried, mashed green plantaina, served like french fries with meals on the Atlantic Coast.
flour-based empanadas filled with fruit or spicy meat, sold on the Atlantic Coast.
a side disk of sautéed vegetables, often containing meat
plantaina. They look like large bananas, but cannot be eaten raw. Sweet and delicious when fried or baked. Also sold in a form similar to potato chips. A Central American staple.
cold fruir drinks. Most refrescos are made with a lot of sugar. If you order a refresco that is not made in advance, like papaya en agua, papaya en leche, or jugo de zanahoria (carrot juice), you can ask for it sin azúcar (without sugar) and add your own to taste. Similarly, an ensalada de frutas (fruit salad) might come smothered in Jello and ice cream. You can ask for it sin gelatina, sin helados.
sopa de mondongo:
soup made from bean gravy, with hand-boiled egg and vegetables added.
tacos — a bit of meat topped with cabbage salad in a tortilla.
a sweet commeal cake.
tamal de elote:
sweet corn tamales, wrapped in cornhusks tamales—commeal, usually stuffed with pork or chicken, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled a Christmas tradition.
tapa de dulce:
native brown sugar, sold in a solid form that looks like an inverted flower por. It's grated with a knife or boiled into a syrup from which is made agua dulce, a popular campesino drink.