recetas esmeraldeñas
Our very short Esmeraldas cookbook 1024 576Ñan - La revista de viajes del Ecuador

Our very short Esmeraldas cookbook

The Real-Deal Esmeraldas Black Conch Ceviche (serves 4)

1 kg of live black conch shells (they must be at least 4.5 centimeters in diameter… do not accept smaller shells, they are banned and threaten the species’ existence)
1 tomato peeled, chopped and seedless
1 onion
Cilantro (and local chillangua)
4 lemons
salt to taste
olive oil

Chop the onion into thin slices and let sit in salted water for 5 to 10 minutes (or do as the Esmeraldas cooks would: cut the onion into thin slices and place them, in your hands, under running water for a few seconds while squeezing to remove the bitterness, then leave aside in a bowl with some salt). Split the shell in half and take out the meat and ink (juice) into a container. Add lemon juice, tomatoes, chillangua and chopped coriander and pickled onion. Season with salt and olive oil to taste.

Seafood rice, Atacames style (serves 6)

½ kg of shrimp
½ kg of clams
½ kg of black conch
½ kg of squid
4 cups of fish/seafood stock
2 peeled tomatoes, chopped and seedless
8 garlics, mashed
1 onion
1 paprika
oil with achiote (annatto)
chopped herbs: basil, cilantro and local chirarán and chillangua
2 cups of rice
1 coconut

Grate the meat of half a coconut and then squeeze with your hands until you fill a cup with the milk (that’s the local way… but you can also get prepared coconut milk at your local supermarket). Sautee chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic and peppers in the oil with annatto, and turn it onto a sauce. Add cumin, chopped herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Add coconut milk and cook until thick. Separate from the flame. Open half of the clams and conchs. Salt them, sprinkle with oil, lemon juice and local chillangua or chopped coriander and roast for 10 minutes, (or you can also place them in the oven at 150 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes). Cut the squid into medallions and place them, with the shrimp, in the sauce and mix over low heat for 5 minutes. In a large pot, melt oil and butter, add salt to taste and add the two cups of raw rice, stirring until all the rice is “lubricated” (30 seconds). Add 2 cups of fish broth (or water) and cook until the rice is almost ready, just a little hard. Mix this rice with the sauce, shrimp, conchs and remaining clams (which you did not roast) and squid, mixing so that the sauce is spread evenly. Add another cup of fish stock until the rice is ready (if the rice is still hard, add more broth). Serve on a large tray decorating the plate with the roasted/baked shells and clams.

The fish Encocao

1 coconut
1 kilo of white fish
1 onion
1 tomato
1 green pepper
6 garlics, mashed
Vegetable oil with achiote (annatto)
Half a cup of chopped herbs: local chirarán and chillangua and/or chopped cilantro

Split a ripe coconut in half with a machete and grate the coconut meat. Squeeze this meat with your hands and set this milk aside (or buy the coconut milk at the market, which is certainly less time-consuming, but also less fun). In the heated vegetable oil with achiote cook the finely chopped onion, garlic, tomato and green pepper until the sauce is thick. Add local chillangua and chiraran and chopped cilantro with ¼ cup of beer, and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until sauce thickens again. Remove some of the sauce and place the fish in the frying pan until it is drenched in sauce. Make sure the fish only browns on the outside and does not cook on the inside. Remove the fish from the burner. Cook the rehash that you set aside in the coconut milk for 10 minutes over low heat until it thickens and then add it to the fish and cook for 5 more minutes over low heat until the coconut sauce has fully penetrated the meat…

Margarita’s shrimp ceviche

1 kilo of shrimp
2 tomatoes
1 onion
2 sour oranges
4 limes
Salt to taste
Olive oil

Chop the onion into thin slices and let sit in salted water for 5 to 10 minutes (or do as Margarita, a local Esmeraldas cook would, by cutting the onion into thin slices and place them, in your hands, under running water for a few seconds while squeezing to remove the bitterness, then leave aside in a bowl with some salt). Peel, devein and clean the shrimp and place them for no more than two minutes in a pot of boiling water, separated from the flame, until they look orange/pink. Drain the shrimp but do not lose the boiled water. Place the shrimp in a bowl in the refrigerator. Squeeze the oranges and lemons in a bowl and add a half cup of the shrimp juice. Add the onion and chopped herbs. Peel the tomatoes and with the fork, mash the tomato with salt and pepper. When the shrimp have cooled, join all ingredients together and add salt and olive oil to taste.

ingredientes únicos de Esmeraldas
Unique ingredients 1024 576Ñan - La revista de viajes del Ecuador

Unique ingredients

Fruits from the sea, river and mangroves

Esmeraldas is known for its seafood, and some of these ingredients are very specific and are central to the province’s culinary identity. Familiarize yourself with these outstanding ingredients that make Esmeraldas’ food so special…

The Esmeralda table

Green 9 is the ideal place to get to know these delights, but you cannot only enjoy excellent local dishes (and pizzas) at our TikiHouse restaurant, you can hire a local Esmeraldas chef to cook for you and prepare some of the tastiest local dishes. Or why not, try your culinary talents out and immerse yourself in the fabulous world of Ecuadorian coastal cuisine, by buying local produce and reading some of our posts, where we will share with you recipes, stories and other reasons to be passionate about Esmeraldas’ culinary culture.

The black conch

Harvested in the mangroves that dominate the Esmeraldas coastline, these small black shells are uniquely flavored and absolutely crucial when preparing the black conch ceviche (ceviche de concha), one of Ecuador’s most iconic dishes. The black conch is an emblem of the mangrove ecosystem and those who harvest them have created a very special bond with their mangrove environment, which they protect and, in these times of deforestation, for which they have created interesting community projects to safeguard their conch-harvesting culture and practices for future generations.

The blue crab

A unique crustacean: its actualy sky to deep blue with red legs and a yellow claw. In certain parts of the province, like Vuelta Larga de Rioverde, they are fattened with cassava, corn and even coconut… which guarantees unparalleled flavor.


A brackish water snail very common in encocaos (coconut-sauce stews) and ceviches throughout the province, which many outsiders consider exotic…


Esmeraldas is shrimp country. Hundreds of shrimp farms spread out along the coastal plains. However, artisanal fishermen still collect minchilla, a delicious river shrimp that occasionally can be found in dives at local fishing villages.

Unique herbs

In Esmeraldas, several spices and herbs dominate the flavor of dishes, including basil, lemongrass, coriander and two unique herbs called chillangua and chirarán that come from the dense forests within the province.

The green plantain

One of the most important accompaniments in local Esmeraldas cuisine, is green plantain bolones and patacones… you’ll love their taste. You should also taste the very unique plantain empanadas… there’s nothing like it anywhere else on Earth (you can taste them throughout the country, since they are a staple of the Ecuadorian menu).

The coconut

One of the essential ingredients in Esmeraldas is the coconut. We can even say you know you are in Esmeraldas if everything you taste has coconut in it. Coconut in a garlic sauce, a coconut milkshake, coconut in your drink any which way, coconut in your dessert (try the flan and the bite-sized cocadas!), coconut with your seafood, coconut with your chicken… you may think it exaggerated, but you will certainly understand why it is so after being exposed to it for any number of days! It’s addictive!

Platos típicos de esmeraldas con verde
Green is the colour 1024 576Ñan - La revista de viajes del Ecuador

Green is the colour

The green plantain is a highlight of Esmeraldas cuisine, and Green 9 tells you all about it

Green is the colour: Esmeraldas love for green plantains

The green plantain holds a great mystery. Was it here before the Spaniards arrived or not? Many would say no… it came after the West contacted these distant lands, as we know well was the case of the banana, which was brought from Africa. There are several theories, however, and some are quite convincing.

Why are chefs in the provinces of Esmeraldas and Manabí so skillful and inventive when manipulating the “verde”, or green plantain? Esmeraldeños, like natives of the neighborhing province of Manabí, turn the verde into anything they want. It is true that there has been enough time to perfect the art of cooking with green plantain since the times of Spanish Conquest –a lot can be done in 500 years—but even so, when one realizes how indispensable this ingredient is for the province’s culinary culture, one can only imagine that perhaps it had already been there, always… How did it arrive? Well, that is another question…!

The green plantain, as we said above, is essential in any Esmeraldas kitchen. Few and far between are the dishes that do not include green plantain. It is a common accompaniment, but, in many cases, it is also part of the main dish.

There are, of course, the patacones, which are not exclusive of Esmeraldas, but are found throughout the Americas (in some places known as tostones). But there are also green plantain empanadas, which are, on the other hand, very Ecuadorian. From what we know, nobody else prepares them but us. The plantain is ground until it reaches the most unique consistency of raw dough (like that which you’d use to make a pie). The cook will then be easily able to mold it into an empanada (a most sublime and special tasting one at that). Then there are the tapaos, an ancient preparation in which green plantain comes togher with fish in a deep saucepan, which is covered with a large jungle leaf in order to retain the heat and unique flavors. There is also the chifle, the famous plantain “chip”, which so deliciously accompanies ceviches.

In short, verde is everywhere…

Bala or bolón

The bolón is well known to any Ecuadorian, green plantain mashed up into a sphere with cheese and other ingredients… But few Ecuadorians have ever heard of, let alone seen, a bala (or bullet, in Spanish). In Esmeraldas, it’s all an existential question between the bala and the bolón… Are you more bolón or are you more bala?

The bala is soft, not lumpy, it can be fried, although often it is not… Cooking requires more patience than a bolón, of course: more time mashing, crushing, making sure the consistency is homogeneous. Of course, we assume that the bolón was invented first … and that the most sophisticated palate processed it into the bala. But don’t take our word for it!

There is even a “bearded bala,” which is made with pulled meat, common at breakfast to add some protein to the day.

It is common in houses in Esmeraldas, although eateries throughout the province also serve it. A place known for its bala de verde is El Enganche, located in San Vicente de Rioverde, a town a short distance from the town of Palestina (1 hour from Green 9) that serves the bala alongside a delicious coconut chicken and shrimp dish. But without having to go that far, in Green 9 you can try it yourself, buying the ingredients. A local cook can come teach you how to prepare it… It’s not difficult… it’s just a matter of seeing how it is made.

Is the bullet like a bolon… but more refined?

Perhaps. The bolon has more of that street flavor… that quickly concocted delicacy you need to dig your teeth into, oh so common throughout Ecuador’s coast, especially to start off the day with a warm cup of coffee.

Whatever the case may be, you cannot miss out on Tonchigüe delicious shrimp bolón! Walk west from our beach at Same and ask around at the beachside kiosks!