The Coast is where Ecuadorian food shines. The entire Coast is blessed with culinary riches, and it’s easy to eat delicious, healthy food there. Manabí cooking, in particular, rates among the country’s best, and it is a big reason so many Ecuadorian ex-pats long for home.
Of course, the staple of coastal cuisine is seafood, with the great fruits of the sea arriving fresh from the fishing boat at ports across the country. The most widely found seafood dish is Corvina, which means sea bass but is usually whatever white fish happens to be available that day. When it’s Corvina, it’s worth seeking out.
Ceviche is superb in Ecuador. This delicious dish consists of uncooked seafood marinated in lemon juice and seasoned with thinly sliced onion and herbs. It’s served cold and, on a hot afternoon, goes down divinely with popcorn and a cold beer. Ceviche is prepared with fish, shellfish, shrimp, squid, or some combination. Only shrimp is cooked before being marinated. Improperly prepared ceviche can make you sick (and even spread cholera), but careful restaurants in Ecuador are aware of this and make ceviche under sanitary conditions.
Esmeraldas province, a sizeable Afro-Ecuadorian population, is home to some interesting African-influenced specialties, including the downright sublime encocado, shrimp, or fish in a creamy spiced coconut sauce. Guayas province, especially the town of Playas, is famous for its crab, which is cooked whole and served in piles as big as your appetite, along with a wooden hammer for cracking open the shells. It’s one of the most pleasurable (and messy!) Culinary experiences in the country. Guayas is also famous for its Seco de Chivo (goat stew), an Ecuadorian classic. If you’re not keen on goat, look for Seco de Pollo, the same dish made with chicken.
Plantains and bananas play a considerable role in coastal cooking. One tasty and intriguing dish is sopa de bola de Verde, a thick peanut-based soup with seasoned, mashed-plantain balls floating in it. And as you’re busing along the northern Coast, kids often board the bus selling corviche (a delicious plantain dumpling stuffed with seafood or shrimp) from big baskets dangling from their arms.
Seafood soups are often outstanding. One of the most popular (and a cheap way to fill the belly) is encebollado, a brothy seafood and onion soup poured over yuca and served with chifles (fried banana chips) and popcorn. It’s usually eaten in the morning or for lunch. Another fabulous soup is sopa marinera(seafood), a fine broth-which can range from clear to thick and peanuty – loaded with fish, shellfish, shrimp, and sometimes crab.