Sweet Potato Chips (aka Boniato or Batata Chips)

A food that everyone else seems to love that I never really got into growing up or even as an adult was sweet potatoes. It’s not something that I ever ate at Thanksgiving, even if it was full of brown sugar with marshmallow topping. Call me crazy, but I never liked it. However, not too long ago a friend of mine made sweet potato fries and I’ve had them as well at restaurants before, and the sweet and salty combo was really delicious.

It wasn’t until my recent order of delivered organic groceries that I considered making sweet potatoes of my own. Plus, the version here in Costa Rica is called the Boniato or Batata, which has a purple skin and is white inside and with a different type of sweetness. When I came to them on the NaturaStyle list, I remembered the fries I had in the past and my friend’s affinity for Costa Rican coconut oil and decided now was the time to try them.

I decided on chips instead of fries and I absolutely loved them. It was a perfect sweet/savory snack and will be a regular on the list of party snacks. Here is how the recipe went:

SWEET POTATO CHIP INGREDIENTS

• 1 Kilo of sweet potatoes, boniatos or batatas
• 2 Cups of Coconut Oil
• 1 Tbl of coarse sea salt
• 1 Tsp fresh flat-leaf parsley

SWEET POTATO CHIP DIRECTIONS

1. Pour coconut oil into a large, deep skillet and heat on medium to medium-high heat (the oil should glisten and send up a slight wisp of smoke when properly heated.

Sweet-Potato-Chips-3
2. While the oil is coming to temperature, peel the potatoes and slice them to 1/8″ thick.
3. Place the slices of potato in the pan until no more will fit without overlapping.

Sweet-Potato-Chips-1
4. Cook for 4-6 minutes, turn with a set of tongs and cook for another 3-5 minutes until golden brown. For crispier chips, allow them to come to a rich brown color, but be careful not to burn them.

Sweet-Potato-Chips-2
5. Remove the cooked slices and place on a paper towel to catch the excess oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and parsley and allow to cool.
6. Repeat steps 3–5 until you’ve used all of the potato slices.

Sweet-Potato-Chips-4

Costa Rican Food Gadgets – Slicers

The food in Costa Rica is similar to other Latin American countries especially when considering the fruit. I love tropical fruit, it’s one of the best parts about living in Costa Rica. A daily dose of pineapple, mango, starfruit and avocado in this country rivals any in the world. However, it can be a pain to prepare them because of the size, shape, skin, peel or pit and I’ve set out on a quest to find the best gadgets to solve the problem.

1. Mango Peeler / Pitter Set

Mango-Peeler-pitter

Mango Pitter Peeler image source: http://www.chefscatalog.com/

First up is the mango peeler/pitter set ($18.99). This is a must have for those slippery  mangoes while you’re trying to get the pit out and peel them. If you’ve found the right fruit, they are nice, soft and juicy, which makes it even more difficult to prepare. You can’t be without one if you’re in a tropical climate with mango season lasting for several months.

2. Pineapple Corer / Slicer

Pineapple Slicer Corer Image Source: http://www.mileskimball.com

Pineapple Slicer Corer Image Source: http://www.mileskimball.com

There are pineapples-a-plenty in Costa Rica and adding it to your weekly, if not, daily diet is a must. Pineapples are actually a type of bromeliad, or a flower, which is a conglomerate of a bunch of tiny fruits. But, it’s not really important what they are besides delicious, but with their tough skin and crown, they can be a pain to get into. With a pineapple slicer-corer ($13.99) you’ll be able to have fresh, ripe pineapple within seconds. Don’t forget to compost the scraps!

3. Avocado Slicer

Avocado Slicer Image Source: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/

Avocado Slicer Image Source: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/

The avocado slicer ($15) does what your large spoon and knife used to have to tag team to accomplish. The curved shape of the slicer digs into the wide part of the halved avocado and slices as it pulls the edible part out of the skin. It’s perfect for sandwiches, guacamole or hamburgers.

Cheap Food – Burgers with Pineapple Salsa

Finding a good burger joint in Costa Rica has proven difficult even though ironically, one of the country’s major exports is beef. One place we’ve found in our neighborhood is Jettsy, which has a great bacon cheese burger with fresh french fries. They are good, almost great, but not extraordinary like so many places you can find in the US (Big Daddy’s Burger Bar, Fuddruckers, etc.) who have more toppings than you could ever imagine.

After considering opening a burger place just to have class A beef and all the toppings Costa Rica has to offer, this weekend toiled with a few recipes and cooked a batch on our grill with Willingham’s seasoning of course. We topped them with pineapple-jalapeño salsa, some fresh farmer’s market tomatoes, sauteed green beans and grilled plantains.

Pineapple Jalapeño salsa is an awesome sweet-spicey kick that ordinary burgers need. Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 Cup of chopped fresh pineapple (canned if you MUST, but fresh is way better)
• 1 Fresh Jalapeño seeded and finely chopped (do NOT used canned/jarred, it’s just not the same)
• Juice from 1/2 a lime
• 1 large garlic clove, minced
• 1 Tsp Kosher salt
• 1 Tsp fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:
1) Mix all ingredients into a small bowl
2) Let mixture sit for an hour
3) Serve atop your favorite burger

Cheap Food San Jose Costa Rica – Jettsy

After being recommended by a friend in the neighborhood, we were led on the search for cheap food in Pavas, San Jose, Costa Rica. The bar’s name is Jettsy and looks like your typical Costa Rican bar on the corner but the food is extraordinary. It’s an open air restaurant, similar to the others around the country, with TV’s over the bar, rustic wood tables, plants everywhere you look and an attentive waitstaff (which is tough to find, mind you).

We were told the hamburgers were pretty great, considering the country we are in. I mean, how come hamburgers in Costa Rica are so terrible most times? But, Jettsy is different. They don’t use preformed patties and they use decent quality beef, bacon and cheese. So, if you’re looking for a decent burger in San Jose, or Costa Rica for that matter, look for Jettsy in Pavas.

The other food is great too. We ordered nachos, which came with chicken and beef, refried beans, cheese and jalapeños on a bed of corn tortilla chips. My only complaint about those were the store bought tortilla chips; I mean, come on, homemade tortillas are so much better. Take a look at the tortilla chips at Rostipollo for example. Finally, I ordered grilled beef skewers with onion and red bell peppers in some delicious sauce next to a bed of rice, sweet plantains and a salad. Great, great, great flavor and the food was definitely cheap. About $15 for two entrees and the nacho appetizer. Now, add the beers and Cacique and watch the check start to climb.

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Flor de Loto Chinese

Best Chinese Food in Costa Rica

Best Chinese Food in Costa Rica

One notably strange difference in the Chinese food in Costa Rica (besides most of it being crap), is that they are likely to serve French fries in the dish or on top. So, don’t be surprised when your chicken curry has a few mixed in and some of the other dishes have 5 or 6 fries thrown on top. I haven’t asked the reason or background on this, but it can’t be a Chinese custom. It’s strangely delicious, so don’t let it throw you off.

Since living in San Jose, Costa Rica and working in the Sabana area, the Flor de Loto Chinese restaurant just South of the Subway in Sabana Norte has quickly become a company favorite. The front of the building isn’t much to look at, with its dingy sign and lack of parking, but it’s what’s inside that counts. Upon walking in you’ll notice the ornately textured ceilings, pleasant wait staff and amazing food.

I haven’t quite figured out why you are given behemoth-sized rolls to start the meal and a teeny-tiny spot of butter to go with it, but all you need to do is ask for the ‘salsa picante’ and they’ll bring an unforgettable oil and chili pepper mixture that is great with the bread and all your food. I always start with the ‘Chinese Tacos’, which are essentially egg rolls. Again, great with salsa picante to mix with the sweet and sour sauce that comes with them. Next up, I recommend the chicken curry or any of the noodle/rice dishes, but I have been advised to stay away from the ‘crispy rice’. I was told it is much like Rice Krispies, so if you’re up for an adventure, go for it. But I consider yourself warned. On the occasion of wanting light fare, I have also had the wanton soup thinking it would be less of a meal, but it was hardly that. They give you a very healthy portion and the flavor is amazing. So, if you’re thinking soup first and then a main dish, maybe find someone you don’t mind sharing with.

The prices are fair. Certainly not cheap on the Tico scale, but you can get lunch with a Coke or a lemonade for about $7-10 per person. Flor de Loto definitely leaves you wanting to come back, and I often do. Especially as I have visited other Chinese places that left a lot to be desired (eg. Mil Sabores, or as my husband and I call it, Nil Sabores) and the prices were around the same. It’s worth the trip into Sabana if you are staying at the airport or living in Escazú.

Costa Rica Foodie

Cheap Food Here is now writing for Costa Rica tourism site www.costaricapages.com. Check out my first article here. If you’ve landed here from Costa Rica Pages or the Google News posts, thanks for visiting. I hope you like what you see.

I’ll be writing regular food columns similar to the blog here focusing on Costa Rican recipes, restaurants, food stores, markets and other topics to help you keep your food budget under control. Food in Costa Rica isn’t as cheap as you may think. It takes a good bit of creativity to find the items you need and not have to break your banco to do it.

Follow Cheap Food Here via RSS or keep it bookmarked. Spread the word!

Cheap Soda in Orosi, Costa Rica

This weekend we went for a drive out to the eastern part of San Jose, Costa Rica to explore the Irazú Volcano (Volcan Irazú). There was too much cloud cover so we re-routed our trip to pass through a few little quaint towns just south of the volcano. We drove through Cartago to Orosi and found a great little bamboo shack with promise of delicious fish.

We were thinking it would be trout from the river, but when we were told that the fish was no good, we didn’t argue. We accepted the corvina (a delicious whitefish) substitute and enjoyed one of our favorite meals so far for around $1.75 each, which included fries. Of course we couldn’t forego the ceviche, and opted for the fish and shrimp variety. It had a special tang and we enjoyed every bite of it. The ceviche is always a good gauge of how the rest of the food will be at a restaurant. We have become right snobs for it.

So, the more I look, the more I realize that there is cheap food here in Costa Rica, you just have to search for it. This place came with a mountain town feel and a beautiful lake just down the road. We know where we’ll be stopping the next time we pass through.