Despite volcanic eruptions and an equally explosive civil war, Nicaragua remains a beautiful country where the people display a resilience of spirit. Spanish colonial culture is a major part of Nicaraguan life, and naturally plays a part in its food.
Corn – the Base of Nicaraguan Cuisine
Rice and corn are common in Central American dishes and beverages. Corn is used throughout Nicaraguan cooking but it has a social use in the countries’ history. Historians say that the vegetable was used for trading between local societies. Nicaraguans use corn in all forms, from snacks to main dishes, deserts, even in certain beverages. Chicha and Pinol (Pinollilo) is a traditional Nicaraguan drink based from corn. The kernels are baked, dried, and grinded up into a gritty powder, mixed with certain spices and then added to milk, water, or coffee. The Tortilla is commonly made from corn.
Pinolillo is a sweet cornmeal and cacao-based traditional drink. It is made of ground toasted corn and a small amount of cacao. It can be mixed with water or milk, and served sweetened or unsweetened.
Nactamal is a main dish served on special occasions like Christmas or weddings. Cornhusks or banana leaves are wrapped around variations of meats, cheeses, and vegetables rolled in a ground corn and butter dough, and steamed. The presentation is like a gift to each person, unwrapping the cornhusks to find the delicious meal inside.
Chicha is a fermented or non-fermented beverage usually derived from corn. While chicha is most commonly associated with Corn it can also be made from fermented Pineapple skins. Nicas love the fact that along with fibre and vitamin C, a pineapple’s real benefit lies in an enzyme called bromelain found in the core and the skin of the pineapple.
Atol is a sweet custard made with milk, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and lightly flavored with cinnamon. It’s thick enough that you can eat it with a spoon, but not so thick that sipping it would be out of the question. It can be served warm just as soon as it’s made, but it can be refreshing served chilled also.
Elote Asado (Roasted Corn)
If you are wondering where Elote comes from, Maiz means the kernels of corn or the grain itself. Elote, however, means corn on the cob.Grilled corn is one of Nicaragua’s favorite street foods. This is a relatively easy dish to prepare and basically the husk is peeled from the corn and tied so you can use it as a corn holder and avoid getting your hands all messy. Then, the corn is lightly oiled, seasoned with a little salt and grilled over a hot fire to get tasty and toasty caramelized, charred bits. It can be served with mayo salt butter etc but is also delicious plain.