The Panamanian Food
Panama has its own unique and rich cuisine. As a land bridge
between two continents Panama is blessed by nature with an unusual variety of
tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs that are used in native cooking. Also, as
a crossroads of the world, Panama’s cuisine is influenced by its diverse
population of Hispanic, native Indian, European, African and even Chinese
The following are descriptions of some of Panama’s most popular native dishes.
We recommend you try these typical dishes at these Panama City restaurants:
Barandas at the Bristol Hotel-
Panama’s premier restaurant for gourmet Panamanian food with a nouveau cuisine
flair- for lunch and dinner. Tel:263.7890
Las Tinajas- This business
district restaurant features down home typical Panamanian food and
Tuesday,Thursday and Fridays at 9pm a show with typical Panamanian dances. Lunch
and dinner only.Tel: 269.4353
El Trapiche- Located in the El
Cangrejo sector of the business district, El Trapiche specializes in the best of
Panamanian homestyle food serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Portions are
generous and the restaurant is nearly always packed with locals- a testimony
from Panamanians on just how good their Panamanian dishes are. Tel: 269.7844
TYPICAL PANAMANIAN DISHES
Tortillas are very popular for
breakfast, but these are not Mexican style tortillas. In Panama
“tortillas”are half inch thick rounds of corn dough deep fried and usually
served with a melting piece of cheese on top and eggs.This is a dish that will
stick to your innards all morning.
Hojaldras - Another typical
breakfast treat served with eggs are “hojaldras”.These are “Panamanian
donuts”…a flattened piece of dough deep fried and served hot…you sprinkle
some sugar on top- delicious! Especially with a cup of fine Panamanian coffee.
SNACKS AND SIDE DISHES
Patacones: Fried plantain which is
still green, cut in rounds, pressed ,deep fried and salted. You can order it as
an appetizer for lunch or dinner, asyour starchy vegetable or they make a great
Platano Maduro- Ripe plaintians
cut in long slices and sauteed in oil. Ripe plaintains are sweet and so they
make sweet sidedish that accompanies most typical Panamanian meals. “Platanos
tentación” is a popular way to prepare them in a carmelized sugar sauce
seasoned with some cinnamon and nutmeg.
Carimañola- A delicious roll made
with dough from the tropical root yucca and stuffed with a bit of meat and
Fried yuca: Yuca is a starchy root
that is a countryside staple…a tropical version of the potato…it is good
fried as a snack or side dish.
Ceviche- Served like a shrimp
cocktail as an appetizer, small pieces of corvina ( sea bass) “cooked” in
lemon juice and spices. Watch out- you may get addicted- this is a very popular
and delicious dish.
Arroz con guandu: Panama’s most
popular side dish, this rice dish is cooked with guandu, a bean of African
origin that gives the rice a subtle, delectable flavor. Coconut water is often
used to cook the rice giving it even more tropical taste.
Sancocho- A hearty chicken soup
and Panama’s most typical countryside dish, In addition to chicken pieces,
sancocho has a starchy root called namé and is spiced with culandro- a leaf
similar in taste to cilantro.
Corvina- If you
love fish, don’t leave Panama before tasting its premier fish known locally as
“corvina” and internationally as sea bass. This delectable fish has
absolutely no “fishy” taste. It is a feature on the menus of most Panamanian
restaurants served with a variety of sauces or fried or as ceviche.
Shrimp, Lobster, Fish- Panama
means “abundance of fish” in the original Indian language and indeed fresh
seafood is another Panamanian attraction given Panama’s extensive coastlines
on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. You will find a variety of
shrimp,lobster and fish dishes on many menus.
Tamales- Again same name but not
the Mexican kind at all- Panamanian tamales are like a square burrtio and are
made from a dough of ground corn with a filling of chicken or pork with spices-
They are all wrapped up in a banana leaf and boiled. Delicious! Several make a
meal,one makes a handy snack- unwrap the banana leaf and enjoy.
Flans-.Like the rest of Latin
America, flan- or a light egg custard in a carmelized sauce is hands down
Panama’s favorite dessert.
Pastel Tres Leches- “Three Milk
Cake”- This is a rich cake made from three milks-regular, evaporated and
condensed- it is very sweet and satisfying.
Tropical fruit batidos: Another
favorite dessert or snack are batidos which are milk shakes consisting fresh
tropical fruits blended with milk and a bit of sugar. Papaya, strawberry and
pineapple shakes are some of the most common.
Tropical fruits: Panama’s best
desserts are its tropical fruits which abound, are inexpensive and are
incomparably delicious…so indulge…papayas, mangos, pineapples, a variety of
melons, and some fruits you’ve never seen before like maracuyá ( that is
passion fruit-makes one of the best juices anywhere), guanabana ( sour sop) etc.
Raspados – These are snow cones
known locally as “raspados”. You will find them served everywhere from a
friendly vendor with a mobile cart. You can choose from a large variety of
tropical flavored toppings and Panamanians top their snow cones off with a
dollup of condensed milk- a cooling and most refreshing snack.