In the Galapagos, fresh seafood is always available, but that doesn’t mean everything exists in the Galapagos or that anything can be imported from the mainland. The isolation from the mainland that allowed such unique species as the blue-footed booby to evolve also means that a great deal of the food consumed by both visitors and island inhabitants has to be brought in. As the islands’ plant species are mostly confined to cacti, orchids, mangroves and grasses, very little of the native vegetation makes its way to people’s tables. Some of the populated areas do have gardens where non-native produce is grown. Come and enjoy the best food in the Galapagos Islands!
The Galapagos are located off the coast of Ecuador. Thus at mealtime, you’re likely to encounter a good number of dishes prepared in different Ecuadorian regional cooking styles and featuring traditional ingredients like seafood, chicken, beef, root vegetables, exotic fruits and natural grains. Modern-day cuisine in Ecuador showcases not only the influence of indigenous ingredients and cooking methods but also that of the European colonizers and Asian immigrants that settled there. In addition, the Galapagos is a tourist destination, so you’ll also find international cuisine and specialized fare such as pizza, sushi and hamburgers, particularly on cruises in the area. Expedition vessels, however, have taken this experience to a whole new level. Some connoisseurs already call this “expedition cuisine”.
Elements of Ecuadorian Cuisine
Many Ecuadorian recipes, like those of other South American nations on the Pacific coast, emphasize fish, lobster, shrimp and crabs. Some ingredients that are unusual include sea cucumber and yucca. Staples of the Andean mountain region of the country include potatoes, beans, quinoa and corn, which is called choclo in Ecuador.
The principal ingredient in Ecuadorian main dishes is often beef, chicken or pork, but some recipes call for more unusual meats such as goat and cuy, or guinea pig. You may be accustomed to thinking of guinea pigs as pets, but some ethnic groups in South Americans consider them delicious and like to serve them on special occasions.
Galapagos fruit contains many varieties that are considered exotic. Alongside more familiar produce such as pineapples, mangoes, blackberries, papaya and bananas are fruits such as guanabanas, tree tomatoes, naranjillas, uvillas and an assortment of passion fruits. Coconuts also form an important part of the coastal Ecuadorian diet and are used to prepare the cream sauce that goes over shrimp, fish and rice in the popular Encocados.
Plantains, which are related to bananas, turn up on many South American tables; they are, however, similar to potatoes in that they cannot be eaten raw and must be cooked. Chifles and patacones, thin and thick fried plantain slices, respectively, garnish many Ecuadorian dishes, but plantains also show up as dumplings in soups, as a mash to accompany fried eggs and as an ingredient of the dough for empanadas, a type of pastry turnover. Recently, various types of hot red peppers have given chefs the opportunity of creating magical blends of hot sauces, which represent well the culture of each geographic area of the country. It is worth noting that delicacies in the highlands are different than those in the lowlands, and thus it is rather interesting to add flare to your gastronomic experience by knowing where the best food in the Galapagos is coming from.
Make Sure to Try these Dishes During Your Trip
One of the best food in the Galapagos and most popular local specialties is ceviche. This dish consists of raw chopped seafood and red onions that are marinated in lime or lemon juice. It’s commonly made with fish or shrimp, but the chief ingredient can also be octopus, squid, crab, clams or lobster, and there are many regional variations that add things like mango juice, cilantro, peppers and tomatoes. The highlands of Ecuador are well known for their hearty soups and it is highly recommended you try several of these rewarding options. Quinoa Locro is a local favorite soup.
With the abundance of fresh and unusual fruits available, juices, smoothies and ice cream made with these are local favorites and should definitely be on your must-try list.
Some other tasty Ecuadorian dishes to sample include:
• Humitas, the Ecuadorian equivalent of tamales, made with corn dough and sweet or salty fillings, wrapped in dried corn husks and then steamed.
• Locro soup made with cheese, potatoes and avocado.
• Seco de Pollo or Seco de Chivo, stews made with chicken or goat respectively, and served with rice and avocado.
• Llapingachos, potato patties that are filled with cheese and usually accompany eggs.
• Lomo Salteado, thin beef strips cooked with tomatoes and onions.
Galapagos Cruise Ship Dining
One of the best ways to see everything the Galapagos Islands have to offer is by taking a tour on a cruise ship. These journeys typically last from four to eight days and include all meals. Among the advantages of touring on the luxury vessels is the excellent quality of the food. Because most ship menus will feature authentic Ecuadorian cuisine such as ceviche and encebollado, a thick soup made with fish, you’ll still be able to experience the local food. However, these ships employ gourmet chefs with international culinary school training, so you’ll likely also find offerings such as suckling pig, Beef Wellington or duck confit being served. Expedition vessels usually commit one lunch menu to a full display of Ecuadorian delicacies with representatives from the coast and the highlands. These tend to be real feasts for your taste buds.
Read more about Galapagos Tours
A buffet-style arrangement is commonly used for the morning and noon meals. Breakfast may consist of made-to-order omelets, cereal, yogurt, fruit and breads, including yucca bread, along with coffee and tea. You’ll be served juices that have been freshly prepared using local tropical fruits. Lunch frequently includes salads, soups and a choice of main courses made with freshly caught seafood and locally sourced vegetables. Fried green plantains are usually present in some form. Dinners are more formal and can include a soup course, a pasta or salad course, a main course and dessert. Some expedition vessels have even developed a full line of vegetarian cuisine. A side benefit of traveling on a cruise ship is that at least some meals will be served in the vessel’s al fresco facilities, so you’ll also get beautiful and constantly changing Galapagos views to enjoy with your food.