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Carimañolas from Panama • A Culinary Tour Around the World

January 7, 2011 by Joan Nova in Culinary Tour Around the World, Nuevo Latino, Travel Retrospectives | 33 Comments

First stop on our virtual Culinary Tour and I guess I’m anxious. I arrived early.

Panama was a tough one for me. I wanted to do something challenging, but it turns out the cuisine is pretty similar to the rest of Latin America. Where it diverged from the familiar, like in carimañolas (stuffed yuca with meat), the suggested meat was iguana or gatosolo (racoon). Hell, I wanted to stretch my skills, but I just couldn’t go there…even though, living in FL, there are lots of iguanas around that I’d like to get rid of!

So, I kept looking for an idea. Then I found arroz con tities y coco. I must admit, much like a pubescent school boy, I was intrigued by ‘tities’ (giggle), but the recipe turned out to be baby shrimp and rice cooked in coconut milk. I wanted something more adventurous, so I went back to the carimañolas. Yes, I did!

Fake out! :)

No, I didn’t rope up one of the iguanas roaming around the lake outside Casa Nova. Instead, I decided to go the way of Cook’s Choice (one of the event’s options) and interpret this recipe in a contemporary way.

Carimañola is a Colombian and Panamanian dish that is a type of meat-pie. It is a torpedo-shaped yuca fritter, stuffed with cheese, seasoned ground meat, and fried. Carimañola is often served as a breakfast item. (wikipedia)

Changes to Traditional Recipe
First: Instead of iguana or gatosolo, I chose ground beef, seasoned it like the recipe and pan sauteed it.
Second: I used frozen yuca – who likes to peel that sucker? Boil for about 20 minutes till fork-tender and then mash with a drizzle of olive oil and kosher salt.
Third: Instead of making a croquette and deep frying, I chose to layer the ingredients and pop it the oven to meld the flavors.
Fourth: I topped it with chopped egg and a brightly-flavored chopped avocado salad.

I followed an online recipe for the fundamental ingredients and while this one didn’t mention cheese or boiled eggs, others did — so I went for the whole enchilada (oops, wrong country). I added a little cheese before it went into the oven and chopped egg when it came out. And, for presentation and to add a touch of acid, I topped it with the salad.

While some Panamaians may look at this and say, “ay caramba”, “cocinera loca” (crazy cook)…I’m here to tell you it was muy, pero muy, delicioso (that means really, really) and it had all the ingredients and flavors of the traditional version. It just wasn’t fried. And, it was unconventionally inside out.

Chopped Salad
Spanish olives w/pimentos
fresh lime juice
dry seasonings

Blogger Round-Up: Wednesday, January 12
Next Stop: Alaska, January 16
Itinerary and event details.

NOTE: Some recipes found on FOODalogue are offered without ingredient quantities. They're meant as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with … in your own kitchen … to your own spice and taste levels … to your preferred portion sizes … and to however many people you’re cooking for. A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!


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  1. Nicely done!! Gorgeous, colorful dish. Take me with you!

  2. norma says:

    It looks “delicioso” to me. I can’t wait to make my dish.

  3. bellini says:

    Leave it to Joan to come up with something outside of the box and yet with one foot heavily in front of the door of Panamanian cuisine. It looks delicioso!!!

  4. Liz says:

    Thanks for another great dish! Looking forward to learning more on your culinary tour.

  5. Good for you, Joan… but, I would have LOVED to have heard how racoon tastes.

  6. Peter says:

    Shall we also call this a Sloppy Jose? I want a big bite of this.

  7. giz says:

    You gave me a scare – I came a hopping and saw your post and thought for a minute I missed the date. OY! I love the whole combination and so eye appealing.

  8. For a moment then I thought we’d be having a big “Foodalogue moment”…with iguana! LOL! Nice start to the tour Joan.

  9. Yummy~ I have had rattlesnake in Texas restaurants so I guess iguanas are similar. bur beef sounds a lot safer, and I love the idea of layering the ingredients.

  10. EATnLISTEN says:

    Yum what a great recipe Joan! I hope you are having a terrific new year.

  11. Anamaris says:

    oooooh, you did good, chica! I’ve never had them with boiled egg or cheese, but this looks outstanding!

  12. It looks yummy Joan……And Panama was tough for me too :-), very Latin America. Anyhow, we’ll see what lands on our plates

  13. Wow !! I havenever seen something like that!! It looks so original to me!! Thanks for “teaching” us all this!!

  14. I can see why you were anxious to post. It’s a great entry for your event.

  15. Rich says:

    Oh my gosh. Wow. There’s no real single thing to point out except that the whole thing just looks … incredible. Greatness, Joan. Pure greatness.

  16. Anamaris says:

    I got a bit carried away and ended up with 2 dishes, one contemporary and one a bit more on the traditional side. Can’t wait for the next destination.

  17. Marie says:

    It’s fun to come here and learn about different cultures and their food and as always, love your presentations Joan!

  18. Katie says:

    As someone who has absolutely no preconceived notions about Panamanian food, you could have passed this off as 100% authentic and I would’ve believed you. lol With that said, the dish looks fresh and colorful, and I think your interpretation makes the recipe accessible to a broader audience (for those of us who don’t have iguanas roaming around outside – or raccoons for that matter!). Well done, Joan!

  19. sippittysup says:

    I taught a cooking class to ex-pat American’s in Panama last year. It was a lot of fun, but alas I picked up very few local recipes. GREG

  20. redkathy says:

    Hi Joan, impressed as usual. Inside out sounds perfect if you ask me! And I do so agree with you on peeling those yucca uggh. I’m going to try the frozen variety next time.

  21. Well I’ve learned a lot about Panamanian food today from you and I’ve never cooked or eaten with yucca let alone knowing you could buy it frozen.

  22. Minerva says:

    Joan, as a Panamanian I am happy to see people try to understand my culture to our food….unfortunately, your sources sent you down the wrong path. Carima~nolas are made with ground beef. Never with iguana, racoon, chicken or cheese…not in Panama. Never with eggs or avocado either…and most certainly never baked. You missed the essence of the dish which combines the crispiness of the fried yuca on the outside, with its mashed texture in the inside. Also, not sure what your sources are, but Panamana has one of the most eclectic cuisines of the Americas because of its geographic locations and although it is true that many dishes are typical of Latin America, each country prepares them differently. The most unique dish (and absolutely most delicious) is ceviche. Which is done all over the Americas, but is distinctive enough in each country to clearly be identified by its flavor profile. Again, kudos on the attempt and on a marvelous dish…but please, please please spend more time on the research.

    • Joan says:

      Thank you for enlightening us. I certainly meant no disrespect. It was ‘my’ interpretation of a classic dish…and a little bit of humor for the readers.

  23. Joan, I really hope you read this. I totally agree with Minerva. I like the interpretation you did on the plate, I gotta say is nicely done. But next time try to contact some of the locals, like me, I’m a proud Panamanian and we absolutely do not eat gatosolo (raccoon) or iguana, cuz this is banned by law. I check the web you linked but this I see was written not by a Panamanian but a tourist instead. Maybe he or she just tried to spice things up a lil bit. :)
    You should come visit sometime. It’s awesome. I know you’ll love the food.

  24. Joan says:

    From Big Red Kitchen (Robin) via FB:
    I think food is wide open to interpretation. Art is involved and we all have our own take. I think your dish was lovely and well thought out with great consideration and respect to the culture.
    Funny story- I asked my Korean students about American food and they said that they liked it better than Korean food. So I asked them what their favorite American dishes were. “Spaghetti and Meatballs and Pizza!” Oh my.

  25. Joan says:

    Another FB comment:
    Brii wrote: “gosh joan!!! that was good I didn’t post my tuna recipe then. Minerva would have got a heart attack. it was an idea of a fellow who lived in the Canal Zone, for those who couldn’t find ceviche! and the Panama egg nog?!! better not! (but I assure you it was gooood!) it is a pity some people don’t understand the fun in trying and exploring recipes from other countries. baciusss”

  26. Anamaris says:

    The criteria Joan has set for the tour is very clear, at least to those of us who regularly participate in it. I don’t think my fellow compatriotes are upset at the beautiful interpretation of carimanola, but rather sharing their opinion and knowledge regarding the traditional dish, as well as making sure that those who are not familiar with our food know that it is eclectic and rich with many influences and local ingredients.

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