Manabí: Cradle of flavor


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Food is one of the reasons why you may end up living in Manabí. A long list of dishes, combinations of ingredients and cooking procedures, unique to this special little corner of the world reflect a culinary culture of staggering proportions. The almost ‘gourmet’ elaboration of recipes coming from the most humble of kitchens, simple restaurants that produce sophisticated flavors, where the unexpected duo of plantain and peanuts complement other base ingredients such as yuca, corn, sweet potatoes, beans, achiote (anato) and cilantro, does not make it easy for anyone whose tried Manabí food to ever forget it… Even those of us who know of this great culinary tradition, there is much to discover: from the sweet ‘malarrabia’ to free-range chicken “seco” stews, from homemade sausages, to garlic shrimp on plantain beds, apart from a series of unique dishes called “sango”, “chupe”, “viche”, “cazuela”, each special, and delicious appetizers, including fresh cheeses, empanadas, plantain balls, and more… Here we offer a quick overview of the classics and other discoveries we’ve made along the way.

Seco de gallina criolla

A delicious coastal stew. The secrets: concentrated green peppers, caramelized onions, beer, cilantro, “happy chickens” feed soft corn.

Head to: Varios sites on the Higuerón-Correaguas route and quinta Don Tito in Río Chico.


A plantain-leaf wrap in which a dough of grated plaintain with peanuts, annato and meat (chicken, pork, bacon): find it at neighborhood markets.

Head to: Sabor Criollo, on the road to Crucita (100 m from the roundpoint).


A sweet meat stew double-wrapped in a corn flour cake and plantain leaves; to-die-for.

Head to: Juventud Italiana only in morning hours (see box).


A fabulous invention: oval-shaped snacks usually made with fish, plantain flour and peanuts. Usually sold in the late afternoon.

Camarón al ajillo

Garlic based ajillos come from the Mediterranean, but are very popular in Manabí, and instead of parsley, they invariably are seasoned with coriandre.

Head to: Patacón Pisao, Puerto López


Traditionally reserved for special occassions (common in funerals); cornmeal and peanuts baked with different meats (usually chicken, beef and pork).


An elaborated dish that we think may be a precursor to Ecuador’s Easter “Fanesca”. The recipe includes corn, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, beans, sweet plantains and green plantains made into balls, fish, and the secret ingredient: lots of peanuts!

Head to: A great recommendation is the spider crab viches in Piñas.

Pan o tortillas de yuca

Made with almidón (yuca starch) and cheese, formed into balls and placed in the oven until they hollow inside; with coffee for breakfast, a classic.

Head to: A highlight in San Can, but common everywhere.


A dish that has it all, even its own plate; day-laborers take it to the fields for lunch. It includes a portion of rice and some kind of meat, sweet plantains, boiled in a plantain leaf with chicken broth and a delicious  peanut sauce. Take it to go!

Head to: Ask for them at La Clemencia, between the fishing towns of San Lorenzo and Santa Rosa.

Sango y cazuela

The basic difference between “sango” and “cazuela” is the cooking method. Green plantain (verde) blended with coriandre, onion, garlic previously fried in achiote (anato) oil and peanuts; you add the fish or shrimp (or both); if you bake the mix in a clay pot it’s a cazuela; if you boil it down, its a sango. There are also corn sangos, or chupes, with corn replacing the plantain.

Torta de Camote

Mashed sweet potato and bites of cheese, with caramelized crust made of sugar, placed into the oven.

Our suggestions

Delfín Mágico: In Salango
Quinta Don Tito: In Río Chico
Juventud Italiana: Avenida 24 entre Calles 9, Manta
Saboréame: Malecón de Canoa, Canoa
Patacón Pisa’o: In Puerto López

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