How to find your way in an Ecuadorian market
I have always liked the atmosphere in markets: loud people, interesting smells, vivid colors and tasty food. Quito’s market answers to all these characteristics, but also has some things that make it unique. The first thing that stroke me is the fruit variety. There are so many fruits I had never seen before, with funny shapes and colors. So far my favorite is the guanabana: it looks like a big green pine-cone on the outside, and is white with big black seeds on the inside. It is best when drank in a juice, which you can purchase for a dollar in the juice section of the market. The fruit vendors are always amused when I ask them to tell me the names of the fruits, what kind of taste they have and whether they are imported. As Ecuador does not have seasons (being on the equator), it is fruit season all year long (yeeey!).
Other than the fruit section, one can also sit and enjoy a cooked meal: you can get an almuerzo (lunch composed of soup, main dish and juice) for $2,5. Here it is normal to accompany your meal with a juice, Ecuadorians often ask me if it’s true that Italians always drink wine and I have to confirm that stereotype. The almuerzo is a fixed menu, so sometimes you can get very (un)lucky with it. One of my first meals here, I was having chicken soup when I started wondering what kind of weird shape my chicken meat had… it was a chicken foot. Ecuadorians don’t waste any part of the animals, they use the interiors to make soups and in the case of the pigs, the skin is used to prepare a snack called chicharrón.
The vendors of the market in Quito will always make you feel special. They call you mi reina (my queen) and when you start becoming a regular customer they become your friend, they are very happy to see you again and sometimes give away some extra fruit. The fruit lady I made friends with gave me some recipes and advices on how to cook my vegetables. This week I’ll try to make a soup of yuka (a tuberculous similar to the potato), corn and platano verde (a big green banana which you can only eat when cooked).