The full complement of the culinary experience I enjoyed while visiting Costa Rica last September can be summed up in just two words – gallo pinto.
The savory seasoned rice and beans side dish is absolutely ubiquitous here.
From the bustling capital city of San Jose and the touristy Pacific shores of Manuel Antonio, to the remote jungles of Tortuguero and the magically misty interior mountain environs of the Cloud Forest, gallo pinto graced every menu, no matter the meal.
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 3 cups cooked white rice
- 2 cups cooked black beans
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 2-3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- Cilantro and sliced green onion
Breakfast (as shown above), lunch, dinner, and even snack periods in-between, gallo pinto was always, always, always available.
The lack of variety, though a bit boring on the taste buds, is not without its merits. After all, practice makes perfect, and as EVERYBODY appears to practice making gallo pinto in Costa Rica, you’re almost always assured to find it decidedly delicious. (I know I did!)
Gallo pinto is also very hardy, providing just the type of fuel required to tackle the many wonderfully taxing eco-adventures on offer throughout Costa Rica.
Making it is not too tough either. Here’s how…
If you’re like me and don’t own a pressure cooker and like to keep things simple then you’ll want to used canned black beans. Sacrilege! I can hear my Mom shrieking, but hey, it works. Just drain and rinse those black beans from a can and it’ll be our little secret.
Heat your vegetable oil over medium heat in a large, deep frying pot and sauté your diced onion for about two minutes, or just as it softens and begins to change color. Next, add your garlic and sauté for about five minutes more. Now it’s time to add your spices and Worcestershire sauce, which may beg the question: “How did a British condiment come to be an integral part of the staple dish of Costa Rica?”
Well, in Costa Rica they don’t really use the stuff. Salsa Lizano is the authentic sauce for gallo pinto. If you can find it on store shelves near you, then great! If not, Worcestershire sauce makes a fine substitute.
Mix it all up for another minute or so, then add your beans and rice. Keep stirring until it’s all nice and hot, and the rice adopts a nice brown coating. Finally, season with salt and pepper, garnish with cilantro and sliced green onion as desired, and serve with just about anything, just about any time of day to channel the pura vida vibes flowing.
*Lead photo credit: Flickr user Matt Drobnik.