Cuisine Panama

Travellers to Panama will surely be very surprised about the Panamanian food as it reflects the various Spanish, American, Afro-Caribbean

and Indigenous influences on the Panamanian culture with its multifaceted – partly familiar, partly extremely exotic - features. The breakfast in Panama often comprises fried corn tortillas with eggs on which further delicacies are frequently piled (such as roasted meat for example). It is of course also possible to have breakfast consisting of fresh fruit, eggs and a toast. Coffee is in Panama an absolute “must“. The typical Panamanian meal usually consists of meat, coconut rice and beans which are completed by local fruits and vegetables such as yucca, squash and plantains. A meal on the islands very often comprises fresh seafood with tropical sides such as mango and coconut. If you order a “Sancocho“ in Panama, a Panamanian stew with meat (mostly chicken) and vegetables will be prepared for you. “Empanadas“ are corn- or flour pastries with meat and potatoes including a cheese stuffing. “Carimanola“ – that’s the name of fried yucca stuffed with meat and boiled eggs, while “Tamales“ is a boiled corn dough stuffed with meat and served in banana leaves.

Popular Panamanian Dishes

Breakfast (Desayuno)

Bistek Picado can be translated as "Chopped Beef" and is one of the most popular breakfasts of the panamanian people. The beef is prepared with onion stripes, garlic, paprika and a sauce that relfects the different cultural influences used in panamanian cuisine. The sauce is made of chinese soy sauce and a tomate based sauce with Caribbean flavour.

Frutas translated to english means "Fruits" of course and are served everywhere for breakfast. The great abundance of tropical fruits in Panama and the affordable price make them a very popular breakfast. Fruits that are preferably eaten by Panamanians are mostly Papaya, Pineapples, a lot of different types of Mango and Melons, as well as tropical fruits like Maracuya, also known as the passion fruit.

Huevos are breakfast eggs. Just like in any other countries, also in Panama you can have eggs for breakfast. Panamanians prefer scrambled eggs instead of fried eggs. Scrambled eggs are usually prepared with little pieces of tomatoes, paprikas and onions. The dish is usually combined with sausages, yellow cheddar cheese and bread.

Salchichas is the spanish word for Sausages. Sausages are a really famous part of the typical Panamanian breakfast. Panamanians usually combine every breakfast with sausages, especially scrambled and fried eggs.

Hojaldras is the Panamanian version of fried dough. Some people also refer to it as "Panamanian donuts". Even though fried dough is usually considered a sweet breakfast, the Panamanian version is rather salty and is preferably combined with eggs. However, there are people that like to sprinkle some powdered sugar on top of the hot dough.

Main Dishes (Platos Principales)

Arroz con Pollo is one of the most popular dishes of the Panamanians. Slow cooked Chicken served with rice and vegetables and can be found in every restaurant in Panama.

Corvina is internationally known as sea bass and is one of the premier fish locally known as "Corvina". It is without a doubt the most popular fish in Panama and is usually served fried or baked and combined with rice or patacones and different sauces and lime or lemon.

Sancocho or Sancocho de gallina is the national dish of Panama and it originates from the Azuero peninsula. It is the most typical dish in Panama. Sancocho is a chicken soup with ingredients like "ñame", Yuca and Culandro. Sancocho is usually combined with rice.

Tamales are corn dough rolls with pockets stuffed with chicken or pork with herbs and spices, wrapped up in banana leaves and boiled. This dish can be a starter, as well as a main dish if you eat more of them. Do not confuse the Mexican type with the Panamanian type.

Seafood is another typical dish. Panama is known for its abundance of fish. Actually the name "Panama",in the native Indian language, stands for "Abundance of fish". In Panama you will find a wide variety of fish, especially shrimps, lobster and a lot more.

Side Dishes/Snacks (Entradas, Picadas, Bocadillas)

Patacones are fried green plantains. First the green plantains are cut in rounds, put into oil and being fried. When they are crunchy you take them out of the pan and press them. Pressing the Patacones should be very easy. Then you put them in the pan again and fry them again. Don't fry them too long or they won't taste really fresh. It is the most famous side dish and apatizer of the Panamanian people. Every Panamanian main course can be combined with Patacones. There are Panamanians that even eat them for breakfast with Bistek Picado.

Platano Maduro is very much like Platano with some differences. Platano Maduro is not cut in rounds but is lengthwise and is usually prepared with a little bit of sugar. Platano Maduro tastes a lot sweeter like green plantains.

Ceviche is the side dish of choice everywhere in Panama but mostly on the coastlines. Ceviche is raw fish, cut in little pieces and prepared with lots and lots of lime juice. Ceviche is refined with Onions, Culandro and spiced up with "Aji Chombo". Panamanians eat it with salty crackers and combine it preferably with a cold beer directly on the beach.  

Arroz con Guandu is a side dish made of rice. The rice is often cooked in coconut milk with the bean "Guandu". Next to Patacones, Arroz con Guandu is the most popular side dish of the Panamanian people.

Empanadas are pastry dough filled with meat, potatoes or vegetables. It can be bought on every street corner in the so called "Fondas", from street venderos on their bicycles or in the chinese corner stores.
Yuca Frita is the fried yuca root and often served instead of Patacones.

Desserts (Postres)

Arroz con leche is internationally known as "milk-rice" and can be used as breakfast or as dessert. Especially little kids love Arroz con leche.

Flan is without a doubt the most popular dessert of the Panamanians.

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