So…I’m not really sure how I want to start this post. The food in Panama is…well, it’s kind of like…it could…uhhh…let’s see…I know – Remember when the first time you went to a girlfriend’s (or boyfriend’s) house for dinner with their parents, and they made something that you had no idea what it was, nor did it resemble anything that contained something from any of the four food groups, but you knew you should eat it anyway just to make a good impression, and then you tasted it, and you thought to yourself “Well, it didn’t suck”. I guess that’s how I’d explain the food in Panama – it doesn’t suck.
Now, before any city slickers get all bent out of shape, I will say that I do have a biased opinion in that I haven’t had much time in the city to try a lot of Panamanian restaurants there. But the few days/nights I have spent there and the “Panamanian fare” places that have come “recommended” by other expats online haven’t really “lived up” to the hype. So, yeah, don’t – don’t – don’t believe the hype. Any other expats dropping Public Enemy references? No? Good, market cornered.
I’ve eaten at quite a few fondas in both my time here. Fondas are local “restaurants” that usually serve food cafeteria style. The menu typically consists of either pork, chicken or on a good day, some fish. Those previously breathing creatures will usually be cooked in some sort of sauce containing onions, probably some chayote, and maybe some special guest appearances from some other veggies too. You’ll also get a generous helping of rice, usually with a side of lentils – who doesn’t like that! Throw in some plantains or some yucca, maybe some sort of cabbage in there. There are some options, and it’s all at a decent price, usually three or four bucks, mas or menos. Chef Gordon Ramsey isn’t going to be banging down the doors of a fonda for their exquisite offerings, but Fonda’s don’t suck, well, maybe Peter Fonda does (after Easy Rider of course).
Next we have the food at the supermarkets and chinos. You can find more pork and chicken here too, but if you want decent lunch meat you need to hit the better grocery stores than the Chinos – because they only have ham…or ham, and on the rare occasion and if you’re REALLY lucky, more ham! It’s all processed too, so while it’s good in a pinch, cooking up your own chicken breasts is probably a healthier option. We’ve also started eating those little corn empenadas – we call them corn buddies for absolutely no good reason at all. They’re tasty, but they need to be fried – which Panamanians seem to like to do. So far, the vegetable selection hasn’t been all that great where we are, but that’s enticing us to grow our own, which evidently, many people do in this area of Panama-land.
I will say this; my wife and I both LOVE the single serving portions for food in Panama. They’re everywhere! You can buy single serving pasta sauce, cereal, bags of chips, milk (chocolate, strawberry and regular milk), cookies! $#!T – Coca-Cola’s come in those half-can sizes for those that don’t have enough rum left to mix with an entire can of normal size coke…How ideal is that!
So, yeah, Hashtag Panama Hashtag Food Hashtag Doesn’t Suck.