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Panama's 6 Types of Street Food

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Written by Matt   
Tuesday, 23 October 2007 01:00
We sat in the most enviable table of the night: a corner booth, rounded to afford views of the entire restaurant as the waiter refilled my glass with a Rioja that was, as he said, "as close as I've found to perfection". The meal was impressive, the service was spot on, and the ambiance like something out of a movie. But what I really wanted, was to tear off the blazer I was wearing and go buy a few kebabs from the street vendor outside.
Kanye once said, "have you ever popped champagne on a plane?" Well no, but I have had meat on the street?

Panama's innovative restaurant scene is quite impressive, but I believe it's the down-home street food and personalities serving said street food that truly able a visitor to connect with the country in an special way.

1. There are a number types of vendors you'll find wandering Panama's streets. In the mornings, stop at one of the ubiquitous fruit salesmen who push shopping carts filled to the brim with whatever fruit happened to look good that morning at market. Ripe, juicy pineapples. Golden pads of mango meat. Giant hunks of perspiring watermelon. Just about everything costs a quarter and you can top your purchase off in the traditional Panamanian style of vinegar, salt, and pepper (yes it sounds odd, but it creates this great symphony of sweet, salty, and sour in your mouth).

2. Especially on hot days, you'll see hoards of snow cone vendors. You'll know them because they're the guys with hundreds of small children enveloping their cart. These men of genius lug around giant bricks of ice, off of which they use a razor-like tool to scratch the surface. The result: a light, fluffy snow cone topped with whatever flavoring you fancy. (There's one I try to stay away from that looks a lot like egg nog.)

3. Later in the day, you'll find the steak dealers: hilarious old men and women who set up on busy corners and fire up the barbeque out of old trash bins. Pork, beef, chorizo, chicken: they'll serve just about anything as long as it can be fitted on a stick. The customary accompaniment is a log of freshly-steamed yucca (a very starchy potato-like root vegetable) doused generously in a chimichuri-type sauce.

4. Alongside these steak dealers you can find the taco people who are artists in their own right. Martha Steward does not know "a good thing" until she's tried one of these tacos after a good night of clubbing. (Before I go on, might I pause and speculate what a wonderful sight that must be.) They'll lightly toast the flour tortilla and load it with the seasoned meat of your choice and a number of neon-colored salsas. Spritz it with a wedge of fresh lime, grab a cold beer, and you're in business.

5. At sporting events or parades, the specialty purveyors come out. These are the ones I'm talking about: pickled quail eggs in a bag, stagnant tubs of ceviche, and the all-too-nebulous buckets of sao which, in layman terms, is raw pork feet pickled using vinegar and onion slivers. These guys were taken directly from the pages of the CDC handbook, more specifically, the chapter on what not to eat in hot tropical environments with no refrigeration. They're awesome!

6. Not quite as high up on the totem pole as the snack vendors, but still important, are the road-side hawkers. They sell mostly things you have to prepare before you eat, and specialize in things like dried peas (common in Cocle), baby crabs skewered on strings (Chiriqui) and even whole iguana by the tail (various spots in Azuero). These are the true "holy crap what the hell is that guy selling" citizens and I like to stop and buy anything I'm not familiar with.

So there I sat, with fine silverware and the best view in the house. The waiter had just delivered the starters: baby lobsters set atop the type of baby greens you might find in an art museum. And with each bite, with each delicious morsel, I wanted desperately to get outside and eat on the street.

Have you had any great street food in Panama? Have you ever been amazed, excited, grossed out by the stuff they serve on the street? Use the comment section below to contribute...
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What wine
written by Jane Scott , October 24, 2007
Hi

You said the Rioja was presented as the closest to perfection. Do you remember the label?

And where were you?

Jane
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gio
Azuero's "Fondas" local Fast food
written by schitre , October 24, 2007
When in Azuero Peninzula (Herrera and Los Santos provinces)do not hesitate to stop at one of the sideroad hut/restaurant (local fast food joint)These are small huts at the side of the road that cooks the very authentic panamanian country food. There is no other way to taste the original local delicacies. The food is cooked in front of you at an open fire or "fogón". No hiden kitchen, no secrets, just fresh, delicious, hearty country food. Ther are 2 that I crave dearly: "El Corotu" and "El Ciruelo" at Carretera Nacional between Las Tablas and La villa de Los Santos.mmmmmm
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Feria Food
written by Panama , November 06, 2007
Did you try Street food on any local Feria.

You'll find chicharrones (pork's skin), macarrones, feria salad (potato & beet), torrejitas (fried mixture of young corn), carimañolas (fried yuca mixture with meat), asadura (fried innards: livers, heart)
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Panama:Street Food
written by Alejandro , November 18, 2007
You forgot about Cat.
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bebidas
written by Darrin DuFord , December 04, 2007
This article brings back a lot of tasty memories. Give me a cold, 25-cent glass of chicheme (a sweet corn and milk drink) any day.
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What
written by julia , December 17, 2007
What??????? I dont understand :-
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Mago Banana Smoothie
written by Aimee , January 14, 2008
There is a smoothie that has 2 1/2 cups of mangoes, half a banana, 1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt, and ice. smilies/cool.gif
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great food
written by jake , February 22, 2008
how much is the cost of your food smilies/smiley.gif
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Hi
written by yosho , April 07, 2008
hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi this website helps me alot!!!! panama rocks!!!!=] smilies/kiss.gif :- smilies/tongue.gif smilies/cool.gif smilies/shocked.gif smilies/sad.gif smilies/angry.gif smilies/grin.gif smilies/cheesy.gif smilies/wink.gif smilies/smiley.gif
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Where are the pushcart fruit vendors?
written by Gaurav , March 02, 2009
I have been living in Casco Viejo for the last 4 months and also move around the city a fair bit and not even once have I seen a pushcart fruit vendor. Its something that baffles me about Panama, that despite the plentiful fruit in this tropical country, one hardly sees pushcart fruit vendors or small juice shops.
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Last Updated on Monday, 11 August 2008 23:46
 
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