April 14, 2007

Honduran comida tipica (typical food)

Honduran white corn tortillasHonduran white corn tortillas

Travelers often expect that Honduran food will be like Mexican food. Some worry that it will be too spicy for their taste − no worries there. In general, Honduran food is not picante (spicy) at all, except that many people douse their food with hot pepper sauce. But that is done at the table, not in the kitchen.

I'm not an expert on 'real' Mexican food, except for living in Texas (Mexican restaurants) and vacationing in Mexico a few times. I have been around this country somewhat but most of my Honduran eating experience has been in La Ceiba. With that stated, I would say that Honduran food is not like Mexican food. This article is about some of the common everyday food of Honduras.

Rice, beans, bananas, scrambled eggs, and tortillas are the staples of the Honduran diet, but they aren't really prepared the way they are in Mexico. Even the tortillas are very different, especially the corn tortillas. White corn masa (corn flour) is used for tortillas.
It isn't even possible to buy yellow corn masa in the stores. The white corn has an interesting, earthy flavor quite different from yellow corn tortillas.

Honduran flour tortillasFlour tortillas are used for baleadas and, less commonly than corn tortillas, as a side with a meal. Flour tortillas are usually much thicker than Tex-Mex style tortillas, depending upon who makes them. As I've mentioned before, tortillas are NEVER served if bananas or plantains are in the meal. It's the law! Although, it is quite common to be served rice and potatoes on the same plate.

In this part of the country, only red beans are used. Only recently have other types of beans become available in the La Ceiba stores. I've read that black beans are also used
in other parts of the country. Beans are usually boiled with a little chopped onion, garlic, green chile, culantro (cilantro), cominos (cumin), and salt until all the vegetables disappear. Guineos (bananas) and platanos (plantains) are usually boiled, but sometimes fried whole or cut into tajadas (slices) or smashed into tostones.
Honduras culture includes foods called enchiladas, tacos, tamales, and burritas and none of them are anything at all like the Mexican foods with the same names. A Honduran enchilada is a very small, round, fried corn tortilla topped with ground meat, a slice of boiled egg, shredded dry cheese, and ketchup, more like a nacho. A Honduran taco is the same as what is called a flauta in Tex-Mex food, a thin rolled corn tortilla filled with meat and fried, resembling a cigar shape.

A Honduran burrita, as opposed to a Mexican burrito, consists of two flat flour tortillas stacked on a plate with a piece of fried or boiled beef or pork (sometimes including the bone!), a little refried beans, a sprinkle of shredded dry cheese, and maybe a slice of avocado placed on top of the two tortillas. The idea is that you pick
up the food with your hands and distribute it to the two tortillas which are then folded in half to eat.
Honduran tamales are usually filled with cut-up chicken pieces which include the bone, a few green peas, carrot bits, and rice or potato pieces. So again, you are putting your hands into the food to pick out the meat and eat it from the bones. Strange habit. Tamales are formed in banana leaves and sometimes appear to be boiled rather than steamed because the excess water often has to be squeezed out before eating them. Corn husks are used for sweet tamalitos.

For those who can afford it, lots of greasy, fried or grilled red meat is a very big part of the diet. Fried chicken and pork chops are very popular, too. Soups are surprisingly popular considering the hot climate. Not many vegetables are used in the soup, or anywhere else, and the meat is usually on the bone or in pieces too large for the spoon so that, again, you have to put your hands in the food to eat the meat from the bone.
Typical Honduran food, for the most part, includes seasonings of comino (cumin), culantro (cilantro), and the ever-present cubitos (bullion cubes). Recado (ground annatto seeds) and "azafran" (actually not saffron, but lesser expensive cúrcuma) are used more for coloring than for flavor.
Honduran food is generally not spicy food although liquid chile is used often and some meals are served with chismol (pronounced without the 's'), a non-spicy version of Mexican pico de gallo, marinated onions, or chimichurri (a mixture of parsley and/or other herbs, garlic, vinegar, and oil).

The corn grown here is white field corn and not very tasty. Sometimes street vendors sell grilled corn; it is like eating balsa wood with a slight corn aroma. The expensive yellow corn in the grocery stores comes from Guatemala on a slow truck (in other words, it usually isn't very fresh).

Except for the imported Guatemalan sweet corn, it seems that yellow corn must be against the law here. That's why we enjoyed growing our own corn − I told El Jefe that once he tasted fresh, tender, sweet corn he would never be satisfied with that balsa wood again. He agreed!

This is by no means a complete list of Honduran food; it is just the more common foods and may not be representative of other parts of Honduras.

Update:  For a very good blog written by a Catracha with lots of Honduran recipes, most of which are in both Spanish and English, see Cocina Hondureña y Mas.

Related articles and restaurant reviews:

Honduran fast foods
How to make tortillas
Tostones (twice fried plantains)
Al Corral (carne asada restaurant)
Arrecife's (seafood restaurant)
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