Category Archives: Food & Drink

Mercado Monday: Mamón Chino (Rambutan)

Mercado Monday: Mamón Chino (Rabutan)

Mamón Chino or Rambutan (“rum-boo-tan”)

Buying Guide:
There is no real trick to finding ripe mamón chino. If they are red they are ready to go.

How to Eat It:
Mamón chino is a great fruit to eat on the run. Just pinch or bite a small hole in the skin and peel it away to expose the flesh inside. Then just pop the whole thing into your mouth and chew and suck the flesh off the seed inside.

Flavor:
Mamón chino (also referred to as rambutan) is a cousin to the much more well-known lychee fruit. The two taste very similar. They are sweet and slightly tart, with the consistency of a firm grape. 

Harvesting Season:
Mamón chino can be harvested twice per year, but is most prevalent July through September.

Nutrition:
Mamón chino is low in calories and high in Vitamin C, iron and anti-oxidants.

Interesting Facts:
Mamón chino roughly translated means “Chinese sucker”.  Originating from Indonesia and Malaysia it can be found growing naturally all over Southeast Asia. Most Nicaraguans refer to people of any Asian descent as Chinese.  For example, our good friend Kenny is Hawaiian. Locals refer to him as “chinito” (cute little China man). Thinking in true Nica logic – a fruit of Asian background that you suck on – should obviously be called a  Chinese sucker.

What I Ate Today: Ceviche de Camarones

What I Ate Today: Ceviche de Camarones

Ceviche (“seh-BEE-chay”)

The first time I was introduced to ceviche was almost eight years ago in a restaurant in Playa del Coco, Costa Rica.  

“Gord, you can’t eat that! It’s raw fish. You’re going to get sick.”

I was so wrong!

This hugely popular Central American dish is made from fresh raw fish marinated in lime juice, and spiced with chili peppers. Additional seasonings, such as chopped onions and salt are also added. 

Is ceviche cooked?

A dish in which raw fish is marinated in citrus juice, isn’t cooked. But it’s not exactly raw, either.  Both heat and citric acid are agents of a chemical process called denaturation. In this process, the heat or citric acid changes the proteins in the fish, unraveling the molecules and altering their chemical and physical properties. When fish is bathed in citrus juices, this process of denaturation turns the flesh firm and opaque, as if it had been cooked with heat.

Ceviche spooned onto crackers with a dash of chile now happens to be one of my favorite appetizers.  It’s a nice light tasty snack that is great for sharing.

If you enjoy fish (cooked or raw) and have yet to sample ceviche I high recommend you give it a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

Author’s Note:  The dish shown in the photo is a shrimp ceviche that I enjoyed poolside at Rocamar restaurant in San Juan del Sur. Cost was C$110 ($4.40 USD).

Mercado Monday: Passion Fruit (Calala or Maracuya)

Buying Guide:
Select calala that feels heavy for its size.  If the skin on the fruit appears glossy yellow or green it is not ready to be eaten. Wait until the skin gets blotchy and starts to shrivel and wrinkle, like an old man’s skin. Even then the inside of the calala may still be yellow and quite sour.  When calala looks almost spoiled on the outside the fruit on the inside will be vibrant orange in color and little bit sweet.

Flavor:  The juice and pulp of calala is slightly sweet and very tart with a unique burst of citrus flavor. The seeds are surrounded by the pulp of the fruit and are meant to be eaten. They add a nice crunch and provide an incredible amount of fibre.

How to Eat It:
Calala is the one fruit where you eat the seeds and discard the skin.  It is often used in juices and smoothies. When added to something very sweet like a banana and pineapple smoothie the calala’s acidity cuts through the sweetness an adds an incredible punch of citrus flavor. My personal favorite way to eat calala is to scoop the seeds and pulp into a bowl, add some natural yogurt, a banana and a handful of roasted cacao beans. The creamy, sweet, sour, bitter, crunchy combination of flavors and texture is amazing.

Harvesting Season:
Passion fruit can be found year round, but high season for this fruit is October through February.

Nutrition:
Like many fruits calala is high in Vitamin A, C and antioxidants. It is also incredibly high in fibre. Passion fruit offers a good dose of B vitamins, potassium and loads of minerals like iron, copper, magnesium and phosphorus.

Interesting Facts:
The ugly appearance of the skin combined with the weird seedy goopy interior makes the calala one of the ugliest – but most delicious fruits – I eat. Having a calala is part of my daily ritual.

Mercado Monday: Pitaya (Dragon Fruit)

Mercado Monday: Pitaya

Pitaya (Dragon Fruit)

Although this colorful fruit is readily available in most grocery stores in Canada, before moving to Nicaragua we didn’t know what it was, nor had we tasted it. But now that we know how to eat it, it’s become a favorite!

To learn all you need to know about dragon fruit – otherwise known in Nicaragua as – pitaya continue reading below

Buying Guide: Look for bright, even-colored skin.  Hold the dragon fruit in your palm and try pressing the skin with your  fingers – it should give a little (like a ripe kiwi), but shouldn’t be too soft or mushy.

How to Eat It: Cut the dragon fruit in half. You can cut it into quarters like an apple and peel the skin off. Alternately you can spoon it out like you would a melon. It also tastes great in juices and smoothies.

Flavor:  Dragon fruit has mild sweet flavor with tiny crunchy seeds similar to a kiwi.

Harvesting Season: Pitaya is only available in rainy season (June to November).  The fruit grows on a type of cactus that climbs along rocky terrain, walls and often trees.

Nutrition: Pitaya is very low in calories and the seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids. It is high in calcium, vitamin A, C and antioxidants.

Interesting Fact: Pitaya makes your pee and poo electric pink.

Another Publication with International Living

We recently had another article published with International Living and are excited to share it with you!  Click anywhere on the image or text below to see what it’s all about.

Another Publication with International Living

You can learn more about Nicaragua and other countries in International Living’s daily postcard e-letter. Sign up for free daily postcards and they’ll send you a FREE REPORT- Start a New Life on the Beach in Nicaragua.

What We Ate Today: Buñuelos

Our neighbor Candida was dishing up some tasty treats in our barrio this afternoon.  A dough mixture made of yucca and cheese is deep fried and then drizzled with a sauce (made with honey, cinnamon and sugar) before serving.  

Although we’ve been in Nicaragua nearly two years this was our first encounter with this popular Nicaraguan snack known as buñuelos

– Priced right at 3 for C$10 ($0.40 USD) were all over the chance to try something new!

What We Ate Today: A Divine Dessert Pizza

Photo Journalism Friday:  A Divine Dessert Pizza

– A fusion of chocolate sauce, bananas and mozzarella cheese made into a pizza seemed like an odd combination to me – but I gotta tell you – bake it in a wood fired oven and you have a heavenly mixture! This sweet treat can be found at Revolucion Cafe at Playa Maderas.

UFC Fight Night: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

A UFC fight night out in Nicaragua is slightly different than a UFC fight night out in North America.  FREE admission and $7 bottle service (or Tona buckets) tonight at Howler Bar & Restaurant in San Juan del Sur!

UFC Fight Night:  San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

International Living Daily Postcards

Each day International Living uncovers some of the most desirable–and cheapest–retirement havens on earth, including Nicaragua. In International Living’s free daily postcards, you can learn about retirement, property, travel and lifestyle opportunities from around the world. 

An article of mine was recently published as an International Living postcard and I’m pleased to able to share it with you!

Life in This Beach Town Keeps Getting Better…
By Elisha MacKay

With our toes in the sand and mojitos in hand, my husband Gordon and I clink our glasses to another spectacular San Juan del Sur sunset. The sky is a brilliant hue of orange, yellow and red. Our four-month-old miniature schnauzer puppy lies at our feet, spent from her romp on the beach. Sixteen months have passed since we left our home, our jobs and friends and family in Alberta to start a new life in Nicaragua.

Our Nicaraguan adventure began in Poneloya where we rented a lovely little house on the beach. From there we moved to a guest house in Leon. Three months later we were living large in a luxury apartment in Granada. Opportunity knocked and we found ourselves living with three dogs, two cats and a goat in a beautiful six-bedroom lodge in Laguna de Apoyo.

And finally here we are in San Juan del Sur.

Not long after establishing roots in San Juan we knew we had found the place where we wanted to settle down.

San Juan can be touristy at times, but maintains a great mix of locals and expats. Within a month of living in San Juan we had formed a large network of friends. And it’s easy to get by here with little Spanish.

A budget of $1,400 per month allows us to live very well.

Affordable rental homes are fairly easy to find—$500 covers our rent for a very nice three-bedroom, two-bathroom home; cable TV and Internet are included. Electricity is extra, with monthly bills averaging around $50.

Our monthly grocery bill averages between $250 and $350. We eat very well. In addition to the fruit and vegetables that are delivered to our neighborhood daily via a farmer’s truck, we enjoy fresh fish from local fisherman and grass-fed filet mignon.

We have a vehicle, but could certainly get by without one. Living in town allows us to walk almost everywhere we need (and want) to go. We spend an average of $60 per month on fuel.

Neither one of us surfs, but San Juan has plenty to keep us entertained.

Tuesday evenings are reserved for Trivia Night at our favorite expat bar, Republika.

The Saturday morning Farmer’s Market at Big Wave Dave’s is a great place to catch up with friends. It’s here where we pick up delicious baked bread, smoked ham, cinnamon buns and other tasty treats that we have difficulty finding elsewhere.

If we’re in the mood on Sunday evenings we can catch a flick under the stars at the newest, coolest place in town—Howler Bar. It’s also become our favorite place to go for live music.

When we want to cool off we visit one of many nearby beaches. Sometimes we head south to Playa Hermosa.

Playa Hermosa

Other times we go north to Playa Maderas. Both are within 20 minutes from our home and have beach bars that serve some of the tastiest fish tacos around.

The “Palm Island Pool” and swim-up bar (literally a bar you swim up to) at the Surf Ranch resort is our preferred place to catch some rays while sipping cheap, frosty Tonas (the local beer).

Gordon and I have really grown to love the laid-back coastal lifestyle San Juan del Sur offers. And as each sunshiny day passes, life in Nicaragua just keeps getting better and better.

Other International Living Postcards that may interest you: 

Photo Journalism Friday: “Whole Foods Market” now open in Nicaragua!

Photos Journalism Friday: "Whole Foods Market" now open in Nicaragua!

– Our friendly fruit and vegetable truck driver greets us daily with a huge smile on his face. One pineapple, one watermelon and a dozen juicing oranges all for just $2.48 USD!

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