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Beyond Meat now in Ecuador

Michelle and I were surprised and happy to find Beyond Meat in the freezer section of our local Ital Deli in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Beyond Burger Ecuador Ital Deli

You see, we’d been wanting to try the next generation of meatless products for a while, but they’ve proven difficult to find outside of the US. 

We’ll get to our quick review of the Beyond Burgers we barbecued last weekend in a minute. First, let’s bring you up to speed on the basics. 

What is Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat is a US-based company that produces ‘fake meat’ that mimics the taste, texture, and look of traditional meat.

Their hope is that ‘by shifting from animal to plant-based meat, we can positively impact four growing global issues: human health, climate change, constraints on natural resources, and animal welfare.’ Source: Beyond Meat

Whilst some have issues with the amount of processing that is required to make the final product, my opinion is that the additional processing required is a small trade-off if we can shift the global food production away from the current mass-produced farming methods. 

Beyond Meat vs Traditional Meat

I find it hard to argue with the following benefits of plant-based meat: 

I’m sure the meat industry has their own thoughts on the rise of fake meats, but that is to be expected given their incumbent position and witnessing how the dairy industry has been shaken up with the adoption of non-dairy based milks such as almond and soy. 

What products do Beyond Meat offer

Ground meat products were the first that both Impossible Foods and Beyond Meats have attempted because they were the easiest. This makes sense, as it would be much more difficult to replicate a steak than a sausage. 

Beyond Meat offers breakfast sausages, burgers, mince and sausages. Our local Ital Deli offered the burgers, sausages and breakfast sausages. 

How much does a Beyond Burger cost? 

It’s no surprise that given Ecuador’s import taxes that Beyond Burgers are kinda expensive. The two-pack cost us a bit over $8. At $4 for each burger, it’s clearly a luxury item that will struggle to find mainstream adoption in Ecuador. 

But, in the US they do offer bulk packs of 10 burgers for $16. At $1.60 per burger, the price gap between a traditional and ‘fake’ hamburger is largely diminished. We’re hoping that these bulk packs will also be offered in Ecuador for a reasonable price too. 

So, what ingredients are in a Beyond Burger? 

This generation of fake meat goes well past the previous iterations that focused heavily on soy and shared a vague resemblance of the meat it was mimicking. 

The main protein used by Beyond Burger comes from pea. They’ve traditionally relied on a small number of pea protein providers, which has proven to be risky to their supply chain. So, they now incorporate other protein sources such as mung beans, faba beans and brown rice. 

The ‘bloody’ look comes from beet juice extract, and fats largely coming from coconut oil, cocoa butter and canola oil. The full list of non-GMO ingredients can be found here.

The ingredients are mixed and fed into a food extrusion machine that cooks it whilst being fed through a cooker that uses steam, pressure and water to form the meat-like texture. 

Are any Ecuadorian companies making fake meats? 

With an abundance of vegetables and other ingredients similar to those in Beyond Meat’s products, Ecuador might seem like an ideal country to produce similar fake meat products. But, to my knowledge, there is no company trying to operate on the same scale in Ecuador. 

Sure, you can get some Ecuadorian produced tofu, soy and chocho-based vegetarian products in Supermaxi, but nothing that resembles the sophistication of the newer generation of fake meats. I suspect the technological barrier of entry will make it difficult for Ecuador to compete with these specialized Silicon Valley fake meat companies. 

What does Beyond Burger taste like?

Beyond Burger Ecuador BBQ

We decided to barbecue our burgers because, well, we love barbecues. We enjoyed it with some corn (choclos), salad and provolone cheese on a grilled ciabatta roll. 

I have to admit I was quite nervous trying my first Beyond Burger. I haven’t eaten red meat for over 20 years and really didn’t know what to expect. My biggest concern was that it would taste too much like meat and I’d hate the taste, or my body would actually reject it.

Beyond Burger Ecuador Cooking on BBQ
We barbecued the Beyond Burgers with choclos as an appetizer

To me, it tasted a lot like the last decent beef burger I had when I was a teenager. It was pink, juicy and had a similar texture and bulk to beef. Visually, I would have absolutely no idea it wasn’t meat. It was all red, bloody, and a bit messy. They recommend being careful of over-cooking as the pink color doesn’t really change. 

Michelle does eat meat, so she is the better judge. She shared a similar experience, saying it had an ‘80% meaty flavor and was very juicy, which is hard to find in fake meat. The ingredients worked in unison with the woody flavors of the barbeque to create a delicious burger that I’d have again. 

Beyond Burger Ecuador Cooked

The burger was on the generous size. Which you’d hope so for $4! It was a hearty, ‘meaty’ meal that left us both very satisfied. 

Wouldn’t be a bbq without beer… 

Our drink of choice for the day was a relatively new Ecuadorian beer called Siembra. The beer was a little hoppier than our usual Pilsner, which we both enjoyed. We also like the different business model employed by Siembra as it adopts more of a co-operative approach with their farmers. 

Siembra Cerveza Ecuador

Final thoughts

We’ll certainly be enjoying more Beyond Burgers in the future. If they can manage to bring the price down to be competitive with the US, then I can see this becoming a regular meal in our household. 

Our next challenge will be sneaking one of these patties onto the kids’ plates to see if they taste and sense any differences to traditional meat.   

Have you tried Beyond Meats? Let us know what you think in the comments below. We’re especially interested in whether you see it as a replacement for beef. 

Bolon de Verde (Fried Plantain Balls) Recipe

Bolones de verde are one of the most common snacks you’ll find throughout Ecuador.

You’ll find them sold on the street, in markets, bus stations, cafes and restaurants. But, my favorite are the homemade bolones you’ll find in grandma’s kitchen. 

The below recipe is adapted from a simple recipe used by Michelle’s mom – an Ecuadorian native. Like many Ecuadorian dishes, it’s simple but takes practice to get right (I’m by no means a master).

What I like most about the simplicity of this bolones de verde recipe is that it gives you room to experiment. I love spice. Not just adding it as a sauce (aji) at the end, but throwing some chili into the mix itself. You can do a lot with the recipe once you get the basics right. 

My first bolon de verde

When I first arrived in Quito I was obsessed with humitas. Obsessed. I made it my mission to seek out the best humitas in cafes all over Quito. I still love them, but my tunnel vision meant I’d overlooked the bolon. 

That was until I visited Manta and found myself wandering around in a local neighborhood that was not exactly tourist-friendly. There were a bunch of people lined up at a portable cafe eating something out of little plastic bags. Its popularity was promising so I asked what it was. After confirming (several times) that it didn’t have any meat, I grabbed my own little bag of bolon.

It was tasty and filling. I’ve since had much better bolones, but that first introduction sticks with me because it exemplifies what bolones really are – a tasty, simple, budget-friendly snack that can be enjoyed by everybody. 

Bolon de verde video recipe

I made this video whilst I was in quarantine in Australia. Yep, I was visiting family in Australia when COVID 19 struck and I had to isolate in Australia away from Michelle and the kids. It’s been hard, but we are safe and very grateful.  

The only ingredient that was a little difficult to find was plantains. Not every supermarket stocks them, but some fruit markets do.

The other main substitution was cheese. I would normally use a queso fresco for the filling, but I substituted that for whatever cheese in the fridge that would melt well. I used cheddar, but mozzarella would probably work better. 

Step by Step Bolon Recipe

You'll need

  • 4 plantains

  • 1 med onion

  • 80g (2.8oz) butter

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 cup cheese

  • Oil for frying

Time

  • Prepare: 15 mins

  • Cook: 30 mins

Vegetarian friendly

This recipe does not include pork or lard (for frying). These are common in many of Ecuador's bolones.

1. Prepare plantains

Bolon de verde - Prepare plantains

Peel the plantains and cut into 3 to 4 parts depending on the size of the plantain. 

Peeling the plantains is the most difficult (and time consuming) part of making bolones. The greener they are, the more difficult it is to pry the skin away from the flesh. Use a knife to wedge out the skin. Cut out the remaining stubborn green bits. I keep my peeled plantains in water to keep them from browning whilst I prepare the others. 

Once peeled, cut into 3 or 4 parts. You want the sizes consistent so they are evenly cooked. 

Sidenote - we've included plantains in our fruits and vegetables of Ecuador article if you're interested in availability and prices. 

2. Cook plantains in salted water

Bolon de verde - Cook plantains

Add salt to water and bring to boil. Add plantains and reduce heat to med-high. Cook until the plantains are soft enough to mash with a fork. Remove plantains from water and transfer to a bowl. Keep the salted water as you may need it later. 

3. Mash plantains 

Bolon de verde - Mash plantains

Mash plantains well until there are no lumps. Depending on the type of plantain used and how green it is, you may need to add a little water that you saved. Add in small amounts (ie 50 ml) and continue to mash until the dough is uniform and soft. 

Add butter. The starting point is 1 tablespoon per plantain. But as each plantain is slightly different, add this tablespoon by tablespoon until the dough is ready. Taste and add more salt if desired. 

How to tell if dough is ready? 

​The dough should be pliable but not sticky. When you make your first ball, the surface should be smooth and free of cracks. If it starts to crack, then it's too dry and will break apart when you fry it. 

4. Add onion

Bolon de verde - Add onion

Dice onion very finely and mix to combine with dough. 

5. Roll into balls and add cheese 

Bolon de verde - Make balls with cheese

Take a small handful of dough and roll into a ball. Use your thumb to make a large hole almost to the other side of the dough. Add grated cheese to the hole and cover up the hole.

You can also make an oval shape if you prefer (Michelle does).

6. Fry until crispy

Bolon de verde - Fry until crispy

Heat up your oil and cook on medium/high until the outside is crispy and the cheese is melted. I prefer to shallow fry mine, but you can also deep fry.

7. Serve with aji and coffee

Bolon de verde - Serve with coffee and aji

Turn this into a full breakfast by serving with a fried egg, chili sauce (aji) and a coffee.

Buen provecho!

Do you have a favorite bolon recipe? A favorite addition? Let us know in the comments. 

Sweet & Coffee – Ecuador’s Starbucks

If you've spent anytime in Quito or Guayaquil, you've come across Ecuador's chain of coffee shops, Sweet & Coffee. The chain currently has over 100 stores nationwide and has a Starbucks feel to it, even the colors have a passing resemblance. However, the pastries have kept to their roots with local treats like torta de choclo. 

Sweet & Coffee - Guayaquil

Sweet & Coffee in Quito

There's approx 27 Sweet & Coffee outlets in Quito. This is where I had my first coffee of theirs; it was in Mall el Jardín and I wondered if there were any more of these in town. Little did I know how popular they were. 

Sweet & Coffee in Guayaquil

With 48 locations in Guayaquil, you can barely walk a few blocks without coming across a Sweet and Coffee. This is where I'm writing this article. Michelle and I are on our way to Galapagos and have stopped over in Guayaquil for a night. 

All Locations

The map below shows the current locations of Sweet & Coffee throughout Ecuador:

Sweet & Coffee Menu

Coffee

This is my main reason for coming here. The coffee is good, predictable and cheap. A regular latte will cost around $2, which is pretty good value compared to some other coffee chains such as Juan Valdez. A summary of some of their coffee offerings are below:

Hot Coffees

Price (Regular)

Price (Large)

Latte

$1.95

$2.65

Cappuccino

$1.95

$2.65

Americano

$1.35

$1.75

Americano with milk

$1.60

$2.00

Espresso

$1.00

Cell

Macchiato

$1.10

Cell

Cold Coffees

Price (Regular)

Price (Large)

Latte Frio

$2.30

$2.90

Flavored Cold Latte

$2.75

$3.00

Iced Coffee

$1.75

$2.00

Sweet & Coffee - Latte

A large latte from Sweet & Coffee ($2.65)

Food

They have a variety of tasty sweet and salty food options such as carrot cakes, three milk cakes, chochlo cake, coconut cheese cake. They range in price starting at $2.00 up to $4.00. You can also buy whole cakes for $15 (carrot cake), with most cakes around the $20-$25 range. 

Sweet & Coffee - Pastries

Founder History - Richard Peet

I am a sucker for founder stories as I appreciate how much effort goes into running and growing a business. There is a great interview with the founder Richard Peet below. One of Richard's previous ventures was running a nightclub appropriately called 'Coffee Club'. Surely a sign of things to come! Turn on English subtitles if you're having issues following.

Are you a Sweet & Coffee fan? Feel free to share your favorite go-to menu item in the comments below.  

Las Herrerias – The Best Tortillas in Cuenca?

When we first visited Cuenca on our holiday / scouting trip, Michelle's mom told us we NEEDED to visit calle Las Herrerías. I had no idea why and honestly it just slipped our minds. 

Then, we ended up staying at an AirBnB right by Las Herrerías and I'm so glad we did. 

Why? The tortillas of course. 

Las Herrerías history

This little street is popular for two reasons. The first gives the street it's name - the blacksmiths and artisans that set up shop on what was the city limits. They strategically placed themselves here because they could be close to the farmers that were not allowed to take their livestock further into the city.

You can still find several iron workshops in action, selling handicrafts such as chandeliers and crosses to adorn newly built houses. 

Tortillas in Las Herrerías calle

The popularity of the iron artisans gave way to the second reason to visit the street. The tourists that came to visit the artisans needed to eat and cafes selling local foods like tamales, humitas, bolones and tortillas sprung up along the street. 

This is the reason I love Las Herrerías and why I think you should swing by.

The tortillas are fresh, tasty & cheap and the street has a cheerful, local vibe.

Las Herrerias Cafe - Cuenca

What types of tortillas & other tasty treats can we buy?

I'm so glad you asked. There's numerous different types. I've taken prices from Cafeteria Las Herrerías:

 Name

Cost

Description

Tortilla de yuca

$0.60

Yuca is a root vegetable. These are white, fluffy & tasty.

Tortilla de choclo

$0.60

These corn based tortillas are dense and tasty.

Tortilla de maduro

$0.60

Maduro is a ripe plantain, so these are sweet. 

Tortilla de verde

$0.60

Made from green or unripe plantains. These are not sweet. 

Humita

$0.60

Steamed corn cake served in corn leaf.

Quimbolito

$0.60

Sweet steamed corn with raisins

Tamal

$0.60

Savory steamed dough with a meat & veg filling. 

Bolon de queso

$0.70

Green plantain mixed with cheese, served as a ball

Bolon mixto (queso & chicharon)

$0.75

Like above, but with pork too. 

Platano con queso

$1.00

Grilled sweet banana with cheese & butter in the middle

Tigrillo simple

$2.50

Almost identical to a bolon, but not rolled into a ball & comes with a fried egg.

Las Herrieras Cafeteria

We all have our personal favorites as you can see from the above picture. You can also see the aji, or mild chilli sauce in the middle. This is a common accompaniment for a lot of different foods in Ecuador.

You can of course get a range of different beverages, with the hot chocolate and juices being our favorites. I've included the various other menu items below including main dishes, but have to admit we don't normally have the mains here - as we generally just stick to snacking on this street.

Las Herrerias Cafeteria Menu
Las Herrerias Cafeteria Menu Fuertes

How to get to calle Las Herrerías

Calle Las Herrerías is a 15 min stroll from Centro Historico along the Tomebamba River. The walk along the river itself is a treat and you can easily visit here after taking in the Ruinas de Pumapungo.

Coffee Beans

A bonus to be found on this street is a little shop that sells good quality coffee beans. It's about half way up on the right. They will sell ground coffee for about $4.30 / pound. But, if you ask for whole beans (granos) they'll take delight in whipping out a secret stash of higher quality beans and sell it for $5 / pound. 

Do you have any other tortilla hot spots to share? Feel free to do so in the comments below. We are always on the lookout for tasty new cafes. 

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