Panamanian cuisine is a mix of African, Spanish, and Native American techniques, dishes, and ingredients, reflecting its diverse population. Since Panama is a land bridge between two continents, it has a large variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs that are used in native cooking.
Typical Panamanian foods are mildly flavored, without the pungency of some of Panama’s Latin American and Caribbean neighbors. Common ingredients are maize, rice, wheat flour, plantains, yuca (cassava), beef, chicken, pork and seafood.
Corn-based dishes come from the kernel, cooked in water and then ground in order to obtain a dough (as opposed to using corn flour to obtain the dough). Fresh corn is also used in some dishes. Due to the multicultural background of the Panamanians, many of its dishes are heavily influenced by the cuisine of other Latin American countries and also the Caribbean as well as European. Some of the main specialties are:
- Tortillas: These can be around ten to twelve inches in diameter (these are always cooked on a griddle), or smaller, around four inches (most of the time these are fried).
- Bollos: corn dough wrapped in corn husk or plantain leaves and boiled. There are two main varieties: fresh corn bollos (bollos de maíz nuevo) and dry corn bollos. The dry corn type is sometimes flavored with butter, corn, or stuffed with beef, which is called bollo “preñado” (lit. “Pregnant bollo”).
- Torrejitas (Pastelitos) de maíz: A fresh corn fritter.
- Empanadas: Made either from flour or corn, and stuffed with meats, cheese, and sometimes sweet fillings, such as fruit marmalade or manjar blanco (dulce de leche).
- Hojaldres/Hojaldras: A type of fry-bread, similar to South American countries, known in other countries as “blach tostones”.
- Carimañola: Similar to an empanada, but made from yuca and stuffed with beef.
- Arroz con camarones y coco: Rice with shrimp and coconut milk.
- Arroz con guandu
- Arroz con pollo
- Sancocho, which is a soup, made of chicken, salt and coriander boiled in water.
- Bistec picado: Chopped beefsteak.
- Ropa vieja
- Ceviche: Commonly made from corvina.
- Fried fish
- Ensalada de papas: Potato salad, called ensalada de feria, when beetroot is added.
- Tamales, which is made of dough or corn-filled with pork or chicken and spices and wrapped in banana, leaves for boiling in water.
- Platoon in temptation: Ripe plantain cooked in a sweet syrup.
- Tasajo- Dried, sometimes smoked meat, usually from beef though the word refers mainly to the mode of curing rather than the type of meat.
- Rosquitas a small ring- shaped bread roll covered with sugar.
- Bunuelo a new seed corn milled and fried.
- and many more…