Beans and Rice

BY: Khadija Dukes

Typically when people think of beans and rice, they think of the bland black beans served with overcooked brown rice that garnishes their favorite taco or burrito from a Mexican restaurant in los Estados Unidos. However, Costa Rican cuisine has completely rethought the idea of rice and beans—turning it, if you will, into a new paradigm of usability (with every meal), a side dish (to accompany different main dishes) and of course, if you must as a garnish for your burrito. In sum, Gallo Pinto(Rice and Beans) is the foundation of Costa Rican food. At the UGA Costa Rica campus, I learnt this through the first week of our stay. For breakfast, Gallo Pinto is often served with fried or scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, and patacones (fried plantains). Gallo Pinto can also be topped with sour cream or Salsa Lizano (a slightly spicy, sweet salsa). The Gallo Pinto served at the Costa Rica campus is fresh and flavorful, all its ingredients being locally (and organically) grown. When you take a spoonful of Gallo Pinto, the dark, somewhat bitter taste of the black beans mingles with the mildly fragrant and muted spice of the flavored rice. The Gallo Pinto has often mixed into it green peppers and cilantro, which add a refreshing coolness to the warm dish.  Needless to mention that it’s a great source of fiber—and if you eat enough at breakfast, you’ll have enough energy to keep you full until lunchtime. After a week’s stay, I learnt how flexible was Gallo Pinto. It can be served as a side dish (or mixed in) with  Pollo (chicken), Camarones (shrimp), Mariscos (assorted seafood), or fried fish (tilapia). When served in this manner, Gallo Pinto is meant to be eaten at lunchtime or dinnertime. The dish can also be served with other Costa Rican food staples such as Ceviche and fresh vegetables. Gallo Pinto can also be mashed to intensify the flavor of the beans and give it a nice thick, creamy texture. When mashed, the black beans emit a smokey smell and flavor that lingers in your mouth like a piece of barbecue and even has a creamy, sweet thickness of barbecue sauce. When eaten with fried rice and fried tilapia the salty, crunch from the tilapia and the curry-like flavor of the rice combine for a unique “kick” that I’ve not tasted in any other dish. After a week, I am a convert. It’s Gallo Pinto from here on. However, I have a feeling that I’ve been spoiled and will not be able to return to my not-so-favorite Mexican restaurant back home.

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