Food is an important part of everyday life, it is a necessity. Food forms part of the culture of every human society. The foods consumed by individuals differ from region to region or society. Food consumption is determined by a number of social factors including religion, the resources available, geographical location and traditions just to mention a few. As such, Panama food is a very important part of the country’s culture. Food in Panama varies in the different groups living in the country.
The ocean has always been a very important food resource for the Republic of Panama and Panamanians enjoy seafood. In the past the Indians in Panama depended heavily on the sea for survival. Panama in indigenous language means abundance of fish. The Indians could not have chosen a better name for their beloved country. Panama is notorious for its fishermen and sport fishing as many enthusiasts of deep sea fishing flock to Panama to test Panamanian waters. Therefore much of this Panama food in such areas is based on catch of the sea.
A very popular food in panama and other Latin American countries is Ceviche. This Panamanian dish consists of small pieces of raw fish marinated in lemon juice with onions. The fish used for this dish is sea bass and other seafood such as shrimps or octopus is sometimes used. Other seafood enjoyed in Panama is lobster, crabs, calamari, red snapper and jumbo shrimps. At most restaurants and homes seafood are prepared using the following basic methods; sautéed with vegetables, fried, prepared in garlic sauce or grilled.
Panamanians enjoy many root crops, the most common of which is the yucca. This is the staple Panama food of the Panamanians. The yucca is prepared in several different ways. A Panama dish called Carimanole is prepared using mashed yucca. This is used to make a roll which is stuffed with meat, chicken or eggs. The rolls are then deep fried. The Yucca is also fried and served as fries. It is also boiled and cut in long strips and topped with a delicious sauce. This is a Panama food favorite of many visitors to Panama.
Corn is a permanent fixture in Latin American and found in many Panama foods and is an integral part of the Panamanian diet. Corn flour is used to make fried tortilla served for breakfast which is eaten with beans, cheese or eggs. The corn is also used to make tamales. Tamales are common and eaten for lunch, breakfast or dinner. Plantain is commonly used when preparing Panamanian meals and it is also used in different ways. When the green plantains are fried they are called Patacones and are a very popular side dish. When the ripe plantains are fried and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon they are called platanos en tentacion.
A Panama food or dish widely served across Panama and can be regarded as a national dish is Sancocho. The Sancocho is stewed chicken and yams (root crop). This is seasoned with fresh herbs and spices. Meat dishes served in Panama include Ropa Vieja (old clothes) which is beef thinly shredded and sauté in tomato sauce. Pork used in Panama foods, is generally favored and eaten by the Afro Caribbean community in Panama.
Rice is eaten daily at most Panamanian homes. It is prepared with beans and eggs for breakfast. A Panama food that is served daily staple For lunch or dinner in Panama is casado. Casado is a rice meal that includes a mixture of black beans, chicken, fish or meat. Rice when served in Panama food is often prepared using coconut milk.
Fruits are very common in Panama and are most often served with breakfast. They include guavas, pineapple, passion fruit, melon and bananas. Vegetables are less common as the climate only allows them to grow in select areas of the country.
It is very common to see roadside Panama vendors selling fruits and traditional Panama foods in carts. The only way to enjoy a true Panamanian snack or meal is to purchase it from a local street vendor. They also sell Chicas which is a fruit drink made from different fruits which are sometimes mixed. Snow cones can also be bought.