Around the World in 80 Plates: Quito, Ecuador // Locro de Papa

Captain Create is south of the equator this week in a tiny, but very cool country called Ecuador. Its located high in the Andes Mountains, near Peru and Colombia. The capital city of Quito is the second highest city in the world at 9350 feet (that’s almost two miles up!). There have been people living in this area since the end of the last glacial period, including the Inca, and later European colonists from Spain, and now a variety of people from across the world.

Ecuadorians live in one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet. This means there are more different kinds of plants, animals, bugs, and fish in that area together than most other places. The Amazon Rainforest and the Galapagos Islands are both part of Ecuador. This also means they have a lot of diverse foods to eat! Ecuador also happens to be a top grower of cacao trees. That’s right, they grow chocolate! The pods that contain the base of the chocolate you love grow really well in Ecuador, and many farmers spend their lives growing and harvesting the pods to ship to manufacturers to make into the chocolate we know and love.

Kids in Ecuador play football (that’s soccer to us in the US), and it is the most played sport in the country. Their national team has played in the FIFA World Cup, and their football matches are the most-watched event in the country. This sport is one of Captain Create’s favorites because you can play anytime, any place, and with anyone you like. You don’t need a whole team; you can practice moves by yourself, with a family member, or with everyone on your street!

The Andes Mountains are some of the tallest on the planet, and potatoes are one of oldest crops growing at this high elevation. They have over 1,000 different kinds of potatoes that grow in the Andes, and in Ecuador, one dish they like to make with them is soup. Locro de Papa is usually served as the first course of a meal, rather than as the meal. Its thick, cheesy, and flavored with an Ecuadorian spice called Annatto. You’ve seen annatto before! It is what gives cheddar cheese it’s orangey-yellow color, along with a bunch of other orange or yellow foods. Its a natural food coloring, and has a slightly peppery/ nutmeg taste. You can find annatto to add to your soup online, or in Latin Markets. The best substitute is probably 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp sweet paprika (not smoked or hot), and a pinch of nutmeg for 1 tsp ground annatto. Ecuadorian cheeses are probably not as easy to find in the USA, but a Mexican cheese called queso fresco is similar, or in a pinch, mozzarella will work too.

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