Stuff Ecuadorians do with corn

During my first couple of weeks I have noticed Ecuadorians do some pretty interesting stuff with corn.

Popcorn! That’s not unusual at all…. until you notice the small bowl that was brought to you during lunch was actually meant to go into your soup, sort of like croutons…. Like this:

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It tasted nice. The popcorn was salted, so it gave some extra flavor to the soup but I’m not sure if it’s something I will applying at home, even though I love popcorn! Maybe that’s exactly why I don’t want it floating in my soup…. just because it tastes better on its own. And now that I come to think of it, I’m just not really a soup-lover.

And then they makes these scary looking technicolor popcorn balls that they sell on the street. I haven’t had them yet but I’ve seen some messy, sticky, colorful kids munching away at them in the bus. Again, not the best way to fully appreciate popcorn in my opinion, but interesting in its own way…

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They also have popcorn that isn’t actually popped, it’s just toasted. I kind of like it but not in large amounts at a time. Vendors sell them on street corners or hop on the bus with a basket of little bags to sell to passengers and I’ve bought a packet  a couple of times (all though I prefer toasted “habas” or Fava beans, if they have them) and I like the saltiness of them, but they tend to be kind of dry as well, so if I don’t have enough water with me it’s not a good idea… This is what it looks like:

They eat regular corn off the cob a lot as well, and there is usually a couple of pieces of corncob in your soup during lunchtime, which you eat with your hands after you’ve finished the broth it has been swimming in.

And then, last but not least I must mention CHICHA! Everyone who has travelled through South America knows the stuff and I can’t really think of any gringo (besides maybe my dad) that actually likes the stuff. I guess it’s kind of like our Dutch drop, now that I come to think of it. You love it if you’ve grown up with it, you don’t get it if you taste it for the first time later on in life.

For those of you who have not been to this lovely continent and/or have not had the pleasure of being introduced to this (usually) alcoholic beverage, this is how it traditionally offered to you:

In the more tropical areas, like where I am now, chicha is often also made of the yucca-plant, which is a root that is one of the staple foods around here. I haven’t really compared the different varieties yet so I can’t really say if corn chicha is very different from yucca chicha. What I can say is that people can get extremely drunk, extremely quickly and that guayusa-tea seems to be the preferred hangover-reliever around here.

I really want to dedicate a blog to guayusa sometime soon, because it is such an interesting plant and it is so intertwined with the culture and traditions here that writing about the leaf, will clarify many other things about the region as well. The story is brewing in my head, I just have to learn a little bit more about it to feel confident enough to do it justice. Hope to see you then!

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5 thoughts on “Stuff Ecuadorians do with corn

  1. Love the title of this post- it’s honest and simple and somehow hilarious. I have tried the popcorn on soup and it works. How alcoholic is the chicha usually? Is it just mushed corn and yeast?

    1. HAha, thank you. Glad you liked it. Chicha can be as alcoholic as the community brewing it allows it to be. It’s usually fermented in very big clay pots and when they start drinking it it’s a lot lighter than it is by the time they reach the bottom…

  2. Interesting post. I’ve heard about the Ecuadorian obsession with popcorn. In particular, I heard that Ecuadorians serve popcorn with ceviche; here in Peru, it is served with cooked corn and sweet potato. What name did they give to the unpopped corn by the way? They call it “canchita” in Lima.

    1. In Ecuador most people just refer to it as “tostado” and people from the Kichwa community sometimes call it chulpi. I think it is also a different type of maize than the stuff actual popcorn is made of. I see the kernels are bigger than what we use to make ‘palomitas’ but I’m not sure if it’s the same plant only harvested in a different stage or that is really a different variety. Do you know this by any chance?

      1. Hey there. Thanks for responding to my comment. I think that cancha/canchita here in Peru is made from a variety of corn called maize chulpe.

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