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Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary Place: Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary place: Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

I could be said to be living an extraordinary life by living in the rainforest on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. When chatting with friends from other countries I realize that my daily life has some very extraordinary elements!

But of course despite living somewhere which could be called extraordinary, like Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, my life still contains all the ordinary aspects, like doing the food shopping, cooking, washing, gardening, going to work (sort of!), exercising and social life.
However, those ordinary aspects have some extraordinary surprises…take doing the food shopping and cooking just for starters.

The oldest supermarket in Puerto Viejo: El Chino’s.

Food Shopping: Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary place.

When we first came here in 2006 there were a few small supermarkets with a very limited choice of products. There was one butcher and no fishmonger although we are are right by the ocean. It took me a little while to work out where to buy fish in the beginning, but finally, using my then inadequate Spanish, I learned that you had to go to the sea and wait for the fishermen to return with their catch. Right, Red Snapper or Lobster for dinner then. If you plan on going fishing and catching your fish for dinner make sure to get the top tackle box.

Bucket of fresh fish straight off the fishing boat

In the supermarket I spent hours trying to fathom what I should be doing with any number of products I’d never seen and had no idea how to use. It was fun though and made for some very interesting meals… not always delicious but certainly different.

Old Harbour Supermarket in Puerto Viejo

Now, 11 years later there is a far greater choice of supermarkets and products, several butchers and we even have a fishmonger!
I have to admit I still don’t know all the names of the local vegetables and cannot make brilliant patacones. But I can make a good Rondon and will put the recipe at the end of this blog — try it — it’s delicious! It was given to me by a good friend who took me under her wing and educated me in Costa Rican food shopping.
All these years later, I am an avid fan of yucca, (especially yucca crisps), Natilla (a sort of sour cream) Rondon and almost all the fabulous tropical fruits. I’ve learned that eating papaya without lime juice is like eating potatoes without salt and how to cut a mango perfectly without waste.

Cooking: Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary place.

My cooking before Costa Rica was far less adventurous than it is now. Now although I still use recipes for inspiration I substitute recipe ingredients for what I have found locally which makes for extraordinary combinations which often work — but not always!
Larry the Kitchen Lizard usually watches me cooking and the chuckling of Geckoes punctuates my time in the kitchen. Larry is a small long tailed lizard that has a penchant for kitchen action and can be seen darting around, especially as I chop.

Larry the Kitchen Lizard watching me cook

As I cook I watch the Agouti’s outside, nibbling on the vegetable and fruit peelings and the toucans sitting in the trees above the river.

Agnes the Agouti having a snack outside my kitchen

Toucan keeping a beady eye on the cooking

So here is my recipe for Rondon: Even if you don’t have a Larry Lizard or Geckoes in your kitchen, it will taste authentically Puerto Viejo: Buen Provecho.

Puerto Viejo RONDON
1 Can of Coconut Milk OR the equivalent from Fresh Coconuts
Fish Heads to make Stock.
500g Fish
1 Large Onion, chopped
6-12 Thyme Sprigs
6-12 Fresh Coriander Sprigs
1 Hot Chilli
Black Pepper & Salt
1 small crab or a few crab claws
1-2 Plantains (green bananas)
Sweet Potatoes

Fry onions in a large pot, add chilli and then all the vegetables.
Add the coconut milk and fish stock.
Boil gently until the vegetables are almost cooked.
Reduce on a higher flame until you have the consistency of cream.
When reduced, add fish and simmer gently until the fish is cooked.

Eat with friends and enjoy your Caribbean Cooking!

Rondon: The famous fish soup of the Caribbean coast

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