Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Don't Compare Costa Rica to Mexico - Make Your own Menudo and Michelada!

As native Texans, we have been in love with the Mexican culture, people and food since birth, especially, my husband, Matt, who's mother was born in Laredo and bilingual. Mexicans are at home in Texas and influence the entire state. Even in our small town of Conroe, just North of Houston, there is a Mexican food restaurant on every corner and they are always packed. Matt's mother raised him on delicacies such as tripe for Menudo, liver, kidneys, hearts and tongue; he jokingly calls himself an "organ eater". He has never been afraid to try any cuisine, even falling in love with sushi after we were married. But once you have tasted a true Texas style Mexican enchilada dripping with lard gravy or spicy menudo soup on a Sunday morning after a long night of drinking, you just can't compare any other food to Mexican.

Hell, in Texas, we drink our tequila with Tabasco and eat jalapenos for breakfast, just like our neighbors in Mexico. Our favorite restaurant was called El Bosque, in The Woodlands and even with high ceilings, the air inside would fill with smoky aromas from sizzling fajitas, onions, peppers and cilantro. The smell of cumin and chili powder assists the michelada tomato lime beer with every sip. Our favorite time to go was any day or night and the more friends and family, the merrier. Our kids even loved the chips and homemade salsas and their favorite milk drink, horchata with piping hot churros. The best part, was the owners and staff knew our whole family by name.
We have been to Mexico several times and were even married in Puerto Vallarta. Mexico is truly one of the most beautiful places and is known for some of the best cuisines. When we searched for Latin American countries to consider for our family migration, we knew Mexico would never be safe enough, though it is near to our hearts. We researched many countries, narrowing the choice to Costa Rica. We visited and crammed a 3 day tour into our agenda. We immediately knew we could call Costa Rica home because the people were so warm and they especially love children. We felt safe in Costa Rica and we were particularly impressed with the way the Costa Rican government aims to protect its land and people, unlike the beautiful, but rugged Mexico. So we have been here 1 year now and my favorite dish, just like every Tico is the casado. The casado is the National dish, and I am in love with it. It consists of a grilled, stewed or fried meat, rice & beans, plantains, picadillo (potato hash) and salad (green or cabbage or beets) with lime and whatever else the chef adds to the plate. 
Though it is not covered with sauce, jalapenos, and rarely comes with a tortilla, it encompasses a great combination of flavors. Some say Tico food is bland, but that just means it is not necessarily spicy. Who needs 5 flour tortillas and a kickin jalapeno with every meal, other than my husband? The other dish that is king in Costa Rica is ceviche. It is served a variety of ways in most restaurants and sodas and there are signs on every corner for ceviche. Fish is abundant here, with all the coastlines and I, like most Ticos crave ceviche weekly. I do not; however, douse it with mayonnaise and ketchup like our Tico friends, I prefer Tabasco and chips with mine, but I guess that is the Texican in me:) 
If you are looking for tacos, don't expect crispy shells or something wrapped in a tortilla. Matt has ordered the "Taco Plate" or Tacos Mixto a few times and it always is grilled meat with onions and peppers, salad and french fries. It never comes with tortillas, unlike the Mexican food we are used to, but still delicious. But most of all, the culture, people and language are less like Mexico than we could have ever imagined. Maybe it is the conservative culture and tendency to not do things in over excess that makes Ticos less likely to refill your drink after a few sips, unlike in a Mexican restaurant, where your drink is always half full. Here, if you want more, you have to ask for more and there is nothing wrong with that. We find ourselves drinking less beer and spending less money; therefore needing less menudo; which is a good thing, since it is non-existent in Costa Rica. The people are always kind and helpful, even if they don't want to be. Just ask for directions, they will always give them to you, even if they do not know where it is, just to be kind. If a Mexican does not know the answer to your question, they are quick to say, "No comprende". The languages, although both are Spanish, are not similar at all. Ticos are famous for having "Ticoisms" and unique words and names for endearment with less slang and more formal Spanish. Mexicans tend to use more slang and less formal Spanish. Many of our friends and family that visit are disappointed. They instinctively expect spicier food and faster service and forget to enjoy Costa Rica. After all, this is not Mexico. Our children are not learning to speak Mexican, we do not eat Mexican food and drink Margaritas. So when you visit Costa Rica, don't compare it to your last vacation in Mexico because it is completely different in the best of ways. And if you drink too much and go looking for a michelada or menudo to cure your hangover, forget about it, because it does not exist here. 
Thank goodness we are pretty nifty in the kitchen. We often make our own Mexican food at home, but menudo was one of those dishes I never had any interest in mastering since our favorite restaurant in Texas did it so well. Matt also told me it can really stink up the house and you have to clean the tripe extra well. It has been over a year since we have had any, so I am going to give it a try with a recipe I found on the internet. I have posted it below with my personal michelada recipe. Below the recipe, I posted the photos of my menudo in Costa Rica! Pura Vida!
 The beginning of a brine and boil...not yet :)
adding the aroma...not yet :)
smellavision is happening...not yet though :)
now we have the makings of a great menudo! 
the final product was fantastic, follow the recipe and enjoy! Pura Vida :)

1 comment:

  1. Mmm ... I love how the flavors, textures and colors are combined. This is a cool site!


Gracias! Thank you for your comment! Follow my blog with: