Flavors of Panama

Panama has a rich tradition in the culinary arts. Due to its location the country is home to a vast array of fresh and tasty fruits, herbs and vegetables as well as delicious seafood. Combine this with influences from the Native Indians, Europeans and other Latin American countries and you have some great food in Panama! Generally, Panamanian food is safe and hygienic without any notable problems.

There are many different types of food in Panama. Here are a few highlights of popular local dishes:

Different from other countries, the Tortillas in Panama are thicker and deep fried. Typical items are then placed on top of the tortilla to make a meal. It is very common to use eggs, cheese and beans.

Sancocho is a typical chicken soup that can be found everywhere in Panama. However, the flavor varies due to the different ingredients and family recipes.

In Panama, Tamales are considered one of the main national dishes. The Panamanian Tamal (plural Tamales) is a fairly large piece of corn dough – with or without a filling – wrapped in a banana leaf and then boiled. The most common fillings are chicken, raisins, onions, tomato sauce, and sometimes sweet peas. Tamales are usually served for all special occasions, including weddings and birthday parties, and are always found on the Christmas dinner table.

The Carimañola is a roll made of a type of tropical yucca. Typically, the rolls are stuffed with eggs and meat.

Ceviche is a very common appetizer found throughout Panama. Typically corvina (croaker) is chopped up and added to lemon juice and some spices. The acidic content of the lemon actually "cooks" the corvina to create a nice tangy taste.

Probably the most common side dish seen in Panama is Arroz con Guandu. Essentially rice is cooked with some sort of peas, beans and other spices to create a great tasting rice dish. You may see this side dish served at any and all meals. There are many variations as to other ingredients that can be added to this Panamanian staple.

Platano Maduro is something you will see as a side dish everywhere in Panama. The plantain – it looks like a huge banana - is cut in small slices and then fried. The flavor is sweet and is a nice addition to any meal.

Being a tropical country, Panama has a wide array of fresh and flavorful Fruits. With some of them you will be familiar but most of the fruits are common only to the Central American region and cannot be found in the United States or in Europe.

The most important national Drinks are Panamanian beer and rum, usually served quite cold. The Panamanian national liquor is a dry clear liquid made from fermented sugar cane and called “Seco”(dry). Traditionally it is served with milk (Seco con Vaca), but it can also be found mixed with Coca Cola or straight. Non alcoholic beverages seen everywhere are mostly drinks made of fresh fruits. The fruits are either prepared with water (chicha) or with milk (batido) and taste delicious. The tap water in Panama however, is to be avoided. Please also be careful with cocktails and any drinks served with ice.