Costa Rican Flavors

Even More Rice…..!

Costa Rican food seems to be an endless meal of rice and beans or beans and rice, so it should be no surprise that one of the most traditional desserts from the country is Arroz con Leche (rice pudding).  Prepared with cinnamon, raisins and sugar, the tasty dessert is found everywhere and even can be bought in takeaway form; in cling-wrapped covered plastic cups.  It is cheap and satisfying; the kind of comfort food that you can imagine a grandmother cooking.  And this can be said about other typical desserts from this part of Central America – sweet and heavy in your stomach.

Ask a Costa Rican for their national dessert and they’d probably suggest Tres Leches (three milk pudding) – a sponge cake soaked in three different kinds of milk.  It tastes better than it sounds, although it does have a rather soggy texture that might not be appealing to everyone! It is a firm favorite here and throughout Central America

Disappointingly for a country that literally has chocolate growing from the trees; chocolate desserts aren’t traditional and even the tastiest chocolate bars are probably Hershey’s!  Desserts from Pre-Columbian times are corn flour based – flan, cake and sweet bread –rather than from cocoa.  You may also find hominy (corn kernels) used in a dessert very similar to rice pudding.  Cinnamon is used in this recipe as it is in many Costa Rican desserts, along with nutmeg and cloves.

If you are looking for something lighter and more refreshing, try the children’s favorite: copo (snow cone).  Sold by street vendors who shave ice off a huge block contained within their carts, this ice-cream alternative is served with the combination of sweet syrup, powdered milk and condensed milk with both a spoon and straw to get every last sugary drop!  It is a cool option on a hot day but you’ll need to have a sweet tooth to really appreciate it! Otherwise try your luck with one of the growing number of homemade ice creams being sold more and more in tourist frequented areas or the ice cream chain Pops, which have stores located all over the country.

Bakeries offer a selection of flaky pastries, commonly filled with sweetened fruit or dulce de leche (sweet milk) – a thick and gooey mixture of milk and sugar.  You will find the caramel like dulce de leche used in other kinds of desserts too.  If you develop a taste for this Costa Rican treat; you’ll be pleased to know it is even a Hagaan Dazs ice cream flavor!

Cakes for birthdays and other celebrations are usually a simple sponge coated in a sweet and foamy frosting.  If the taste doesn’t put you off it, then the bright colors used will do!

Look out for roadside vendors offering ‘Elephant ears’, huge circular flat fried snacks liberally sprinkled with sugar or cajetas (coconut caramel), a sticky sweet of grated coconut and brown sugar.

So mid-afternoon enjoy something sweet washed down with coffee, as is traditional here!  A little treat to keep you going until your dinner of rice and something!

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