October 7, 2006

Honduran fast food

The Honduras Moon Handbook says, "Honduras isn't known for its culinary specialties .... The quality of street food in Honduras is not as good as in Mexico." Despite that, some of the most popular and inexpensive of Honduran fast food is also some of its best food. The following are some of the most common fast foods in La Ceiba.

Baleadas (literal translation is shot) are one of the most well known Honduran fast foods. It is sometimes described as the poor man's burrito. The basic baleada is a thick 6" to 8" (15-20 cm.) flour tortilla folded in half containing a smear of smashed refried red beans and a sprinkle of grated queso duro (a hard salty white cheese, tasting at its best a little like parmesan). A baleada preparada (prepared) includes a bit of scrambled egg, although sometimes you can add avocado, mantequilla (similar to sour cream), or meat for an extra price. Right now a plain baleada sells for about 7 lempiras (U.S. 37 ¢) in La Ceiba and a baleada preparada with eggs costs L. 8 - 12 (U.S. 42 - 64 ¢).

2009 Update: The price of baleadas has skyrocketed! Plain balaeadas now cost around L.8 and with eggs or meat can now be around L.12-15.

Baleadas are widely available at casetas (food stands) and comedores (small restaurants). They are almost always made fresh while you wait. In case you get a craving in the middle of the night, baleada ladies set up little stands under a tarp roof every night near the railroad tracks in El Centro (the center of town) and the Zona Viva (the night club area). They work all night long, making tortillas and selling fresh baleadas. Baleadas are eaten for breakfast, lunch, midnight snacks, or just about anytime.

A fairly new entry in the La Ceiba baleada market is the Mega-Baleada. These are more like the Mexican burritos and are only sold at certain specialty stands or restaurants. They are prepared on a 12" (30 cm.) or larger tortilla and are stuffed with refried beans, a wide variety of meats (including hot dogs), cheese, avocado, mantequilla, and eggs. Because they are so large, these baleadas are rolled up like a Mexican burrito with the ends folded in. Mega-Baleadas can range in price from L. 80 ($4.23 U.S.) upwards.

Tajadas (literal translation is slices) are one of the favorite fast foods. They consist of platanos verdes (unripe plantains) or unripe bananas, sliced on the diagonal about 1/4" thick, deep fried, and salted. Plantains prepared in this way stay firm and are not greasy at all. Bananas tend to absorb more grease and get softer. You can tell them apart − tajadas de platanos will be yellow and bananas will be white.

At home, these are often served with mantequilla (similar to sour cream) for dipping. In restaurants, tajadas are usually served plain as a side dish or in a main dish called tajadas con repollo, which is a dish of tajadas topped with raw shredded cabbage and ground beef covered with a watery tomato sauce.

A side order of plain tajadas will cost L.15 - 25 (U.S. $0.80 - 1.32). Another type of tajadas are the packaged ones which are very thin, crispy, and salty like potato chips. Sometimes the packaged ones are flavored with lime or jalapeño. Tajadas are usually eaten as a side dish with lunch or dinner or by itself as a snack.

Pastelitos (little pastries) are small crescent shaped deep fried pastries made with flour tortilla dough. They are filled with either a ground beef and potato mixture or a shredded chicken and rice mixture. Both are usually seasoned with cominos (cumin). These also may be served simple (plain) or preparada, which is covered with a topping of raw or marinated cabbage and a watery tomato and onion sauce poured over the top.

Pastelitos are usually good but can be risky because they are often cooked in the morning and left out all day at room temperature until they are sold. Usually they are eaten for lunch or snacks. Pastelitos cost around L 7 - 8 (U.S. 37 - 42 ¢).

Pollo frito (fried chicken) is another favorite fast food in La Ceiba. It is prepared in much the same manner as in the U.S. Judging by the number of fried chicken restaurants, it is very popular here. A piece of fried chicken will usually be accompanied with a fried plantain or banana or 2 or 3 tiny 4" to 5" (10-13 cm.) corn tortillas, but never both. It is always best to ask how it is served. Often fried chicken will arrive with shredded raw cabbage piled on top with a watery tomato flavored sauce poured over it. One piece of chicken with a side dish will usually cost around L.30 ($1.59 U.S.).

Pupusas are a traditional Salvadoran food but are well-liked throughout most of Central America where they are sold in pupuserías (pupusa stands or restaurants). Pupusas are made from a white corn masa (dough) which is stuffed, flattened, and then cooked on a griddle.

Here in La Ceiba, they are usually stuffed with a tablespoon or two of either quesillo (a soft white cheese, similar in texture to mozzarella), softened chicharrón (fried pork rind), frijoles (refried beans) or a mixture, called pupusas mixtos. They are generally served with curtido, which is a vinegar-marinated red onion and (what else?) shredded cabbage mixture. A pupusa generally costs L.10 - 15 (
U.S. 53 - 79¢)

I don't like to sound so critical of the tomato sauce, but I have watched people make it and it is literally more than a cup of water to a tablespoon of tomato paste and is like pouring tomato-scented water over your food. I always ask for my food seca (dry).

It was surprising to me how much cabbage is used in Honduran food. Next to bananas and platanos, it is the most common vegetable. In fact, very few other vegetables are ever served. In addition to with the foods above, shredded cabbage, either raw or marinated in vinegar, is often served as a salad.

For an article about American fast food chains in La Ceiba, see this article.
Newer posts Older posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...