Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Eating Local in Panama

Panama has enormous crabs.

Eating local has always been something I've aspired too. The connection between people and the earth is ancient, delicious, and increasingly disappearing. Globalization has brought Idahoan dried potatoes and Rogue Brewery beer all the way to Panama. In supermarkets here you're more likely to find foreign produce than local.

Still, Rebekka and I have found two places that are as local as it gets. The first is the Mercado de Mariscos, or simply, the "Fish Market." A nondescript building holds about 40 stalls selling the day's catch. It smells like hell, and couldn't be fresher.

Most everything you can imagine is here. Squid, little octopus, clams and all kinds of fish. Our first visit we played it safe and snagged some blue fin tuna. You pay by the pound and they'll fillet it for you right then and there. It cost $16 and we ended up with enough tuna for eight meals.
Ebenezer proudly posed for our pictures.

The crab stall.
Our next visit we opted for red snapper and the most enormous crab I've ever seen. This crab proved to be a mistake, shelling these guys is nothing like shelling a Dungeness from Oregon. He was armored like a tank, and it took me about an hour to get all the meat out.

Rebekka leading the crab in some stretches.

Last weekend we also visited the local farmers market, known as the Mercado de Abastos. It's located in a weird warehouse in the middle of the city. And it smells like death. A giant garbage dump filled with rotting vegetables and who-knows-what else greeted us at the entrance.

The place is huge. People drive through, stopping at stalls that interest them. Most of the vendors are there to sell to restaurants or even grocery stories. Enormous bundles of bannanas, pallets of pineapple and cartons of coconuts are for sale, cheap. But you can purchase in smaller quantities. We bought:
  • One pineapple for 75 cents
  • Four potatoes for 60 cents
  • A bundle of celery for $2.00
  • Four coconuts for $2.00
  • Two mangoes for $1.00
  • A pound of tamarillos for 85 cents
  • 15 mamon chinos (lychees) for 50 cents
A bundle of produce for $7.70. And I'm pretty sure we overpaid for all of it.

You would never guess there is something delicious hiding in here.
It's all been delicious, healthy, and as about as cheap as you can get in this relatively cheap country. 

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