Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Eating in Antigua, a Tantalizing Experience
One of the greatest things surrounding the life of a traveler is the great foods which are presented to the traveler’s palate. Antigua is far from lacking in the culinary department. From traditional (or as they say in Guatemala ‘typical’) dishes to international flavors, Antigua has something for everyone. With only five days to explore the street vendors, restaurants and Dona Chiqui’s, the Harrington’s focused on the local flavors.
The dish most often enjoyed by the Harrington’s was the tostadas. Similar yet completely separate from those of typical American fashion, the tostadas of Antigua start with a fried corn tortilla followed by a generous spread of fresh avocado topped with either cilantro and cheese or cabbage, carrots and cheese and always topped with each vendors special-blend of picante/salsa. Each bite then is crispy and creamy, spicy and scrumptious. What makes the tostadas particularly fabulous is their incredibly low price of 2.5 – 3.5 Quetzales (less than 50 cents each).
Other typical dishes that the Harrington’s were able to purchase and enjoy from the street vendors include: Chilies Rellenos, much unlike those of Mexican Restaurants, these chilies are stuffed with meat and vegetables then served on bread with lettuce and enjoyed as a sandwich. Reinitas are one of the sweet treats of Guatemala showcasing a sweet black bean sauce encased by a plantain. Dulces Tipicos include a wide variety of fruits that undergo a mysterious process until they are a rich reddish brown color dripping with sugary sweetness, the Harrington’s tried a fig of this type which was stuffed with coconut, sweet enough to rot ones teeth out! Within the same family, the Harrington’s also tried a milk candy which they describe as having the flavor of sweetened condensed milk and texture of cheese.
The number on meal of Antigua however isn’t on the streets and definitely not in the guidebooks, it is, in the truest sense of the word, a ‘hole in the wall.’ Unbeknownst to the average passersby, this hole in the wall produces a taco to surpass all other tacos, the potato taco. With the outside walls crumbling and peeling and the restaurant capable of seating a maximum of about 20 patrons, this unsuspecting shop offers the best cheap meal to be found. Sitting on plastic stools one is wise to order 2 potato tacos (the only item on the menu) and 1 horchata; total cost = 10.5 Quetzales (Just over US $1). Two corn tortillas surrounding perfectly baked potato squares are fried and served under a pile of vinegar (or other acidic sauce) soaked cabbage with a perfectly spiced red picante. Avoiding the cockroach in the table drawer, one begins to use their fingers to pile cabbage on each hot and sour, crunchy and flavorful bite of potato taco. And this, dear readers, is the dining experience that will push the Harrington’s forward, as they continue a search for the next great ‘hole in the wall’.