I'm in El Salvador this week on a humanitarian trip and I’ve been enjoying lots of delicious food. Best of all is that fresh fish and seafood. One of the most memorable experiences was an afternoon cookout on the estero at a ramada. What?! I thought you might enjoy tagging along to learn about this fun afternoon!
Let me take you cruising down Estero Jaltepeque near El Salvador’s Costa del Sol. (An "estero", or estuary in English, is a tidal channel of mixed fresh and salt water that has openings to the ocean.) It’s a breathtaking ride through blue water, lined with lush green mangroves and drenched in sunshine.We pass a few thatched huts on stilts which serve as small restaurants. We cross an outlet to the open sea and continue up another fork of this river-like path.
What is a Ramada?
Our destination, a “ramada”, (thatched roof covered wooden deck), is standing in the river on stilts made from mangrove trees. We pull up, unload the boat, and explore.
Herbert pulls out fishing poles for his four year old twins. We greet the neon green parrots roaming about. Others settle down to chat at tables, and I, of course, check out the food!
What's for lunch?
There’s a pile of fresh fish. Cast iron pots and pans stand on the wood burning stove filled with rice, chicken soup and shrimp turning to salmon pink in the hot pan. They’re getting ready for us! This cozy ramada is run by a family who lives across the wood plank (pictured above). They're open on weekends for drop-by service and on weekdays (Tuesday for us) by reservation. They literally live on the water and their kids travel to school by boat.
We grab sodas from an icy cooler. Coca-Cola, cream soda, grape, Fanta orange and Fresca (with sugar); are all chilled and ready. It’s hot — that sticky, humid hot of Central America. The drinks are cool — perfect. Next a bowl of flavorful chicken soup with pupusas.
Taking a Dip!
It's getting hot so our host, Patty, suggests a dip in the river! We climb down mossy steps or jump into the welcome water. It’s refreshing, but surprisingly warm. We tread water, swim and talk. As the current grows stronger we climb back onto our ramada deck.
Now we’re ready for the main entree— fried fish, chicken, and shrimp, with pan fried Salvadoran Rice and Vegetables.
Why does food always taste better when you cook and eat it outside? This meal is scrumptious, and the location a little beyond my dreams. What a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. It feels like a scene straight from the pages of Bon Appétit magazine!
We finish our delicious food then speed back along the river. Fortunately we make it to our dock just as the sun is setting. If you ever visit El Salvador, put a cookout lunch along the estero at the top of your list!
Do we have a recipe?
Here's our flavorful recipe for Salvadoran Rice and Vegetables. I can tell you it tastes best in a cast iron pot at a cookout on the estero, in a ramada, in El Salvador, but we think you'll like this home version too! It's a simple recipe filled with good flavors, and it pairs well with any meat dish. You could even add chicken and make this an entree by itself!
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Salvadoran Rice and Vegetables
- 2 Tablespoons oil
- 1 ½ Cups of rice
- 2 Tablespoons chicken flavored seasoning Maggi or Knorr
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 large carrot about 1 cup chopped fine
- ½ green pepper chopped fine
- ½ cup onion chopped fine
- ½ cup tomatoes chopped fine
- 2 cups chicken broth
- Heat oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add rice, garlic, carrot, green pepper, onion and tomato and sauté about 10 minutes. Add chicken broth, chicken seasoning, salt and pepper and stir.
- Bring mixture to a boil. Cover and cook over medium low for 20 minutes. Turn off stove and let rice rest 10 minutes.
- Fluff with a fork to mix all ingredients. Serve alone or with any meat dish.
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You may also want to check out these other tasty summer ideas!