Plums, Guaytambos, Abridores Galore… The Flavor Battles of Ambato’s Markets


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Ambato’s wholesale market is the country’s largest. But it is just one of many in the city. All have put a lot of effort into their food courts, because in Ambato, traditional food is something of a competition.

They exist, of course, to sell produce. And in Ambato’s markets, one finds, as one would expect, the region’s delicious and renowned fruits: mountains of goodness from every climate, of every kind, color and flavor… Vegetables of every description are sold too, many harvested locally, but not always since, just as for meat and poultry, all roads lead to Ambato. Everything in these commercial hubs comes here seeking to be bought or sold. This explains why the food courts at the markets are infused with the very essence of the town: good and hearty home-style food ready to be sold with a wink and a smile…

The Central Market (Mercado Central) is the classic city market. Stallholders have paid their dues to sell here. Take Elvita… or Susi… or Florcita… or even María Clementina, who still serves her hominy-based delicacies, even from the afterlife. María Clementina López, may she rest in peace, passed on her classic mote stand which she founded back in the 1930s to her children. Florcita serves the most popular, traditional potato llapingachos in Ambato, accompanied by avocado, chorizo sausage and a sunny-side-up egg on top. Elvita, on the other hand, competes with Susi, to balance their clients’ diets with the most authentic and creative fruit and vegetable smoothies this side of the Andes: tall, vibrant glasses of green, purple, scarlet red and orange juices made with everything from avocado, Andean berries and even alfalfa (they also guarantee that they only use filtered water). Just head to the second floor of the market to discover these Ambato icons. And don’t leave the city before buying a good chunk of Ambato chocolate (for making drinking chocolate), a local institution.

The other city markets are just as food-court savvy. They serve great llapingachos, mote and traditional Pinllo bread. Their faithful clientele fills their tables to bursting. Mercado Colón, a traditional market completely restored only a few years ago, offers llapingachos with fruit juices (some say the best combination is llapingachos with coconut juice), a gorgeous mid-afternoon snack. Colón is where the true Ambateños come to grab a bite past 6 pm. Finally, you have the Mercado Modelo, where you’ll find the likes of Fabiola Palacios whose stall dates back over three decades, an expert in traditional Ecuadorian and Ambato staples like the llapingacho, the yaguarlocro (blood potato soup) and caldo de pata (cow hoof stew). Believe it or not, she’s a favorite in Ambato for breakfast!

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