Friday, March 18, 2011

The Gallo Pinto War Between Nicaragua and Costa Rica


For anyone who has traveled through Nicaragua or Costa Rica, the dish known as gallo pinto becomes a staple for almost any meal of the day, even though it is mostly consumed during breakfast. Literally meaning "spotted or speckled rooster," it was affectionately called this from the “spots” that the beans make against the rice. In its basic form, the dish is a combination of pre-cooked rice and beans fried together with spices such as onions, cilantro or peppers. If you ask a Nico or a Tico about how to make the dish, they look at you like you are a bit crazy because everyone seems to know how to cook them. Most responses are usually  "Just cook some beans, cook some rice, and then fry them together!"

Most dishes from specific countries usually remain as representative  examples  of cuisine and culture. But for the countries of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, no other dish has inspired such rivalry as gallo pinto. First of all, BOTH countries claim that it is a national dish that   originated on their soil. According to Nicaraguans, the dish was brought to the Caribbean side of the country by African-Latinos well before Costa Rica began eating it. The Costa Ricans claim that the dish was created in 1930 in the neighborhood of San Sebastián, which is the southern suburb of San José.

Before I get into the "battle" itself, I have to mention that I have personally enjoyed both dishes and they are both delicious in their own way. Most importantly they fill a hungry stomach, whether it follows a day of exploration or a night of partying.

When looking at both dishes, there is an obvious difference that no one will dispute: the Nico version is made with red beans and rice while the Tico version includes black beans with rice. These are just the basic versions since the variety of seasonings can differ in preparation from one individual to another.

It all began in 2003, when the Costa Ricans (under close watch by  representatives of the Guinness Book of World Records and a handful of notaries and lawyers) made approximately 965 pounds of rice, beans, sweet chile, garlic, salt and pepper for a new world record. Annoyed by the feat and that Costa Rica then claimed that gallo pinto was their national dish and creation, the Pharaoh’s Casino in Nicaragua announced that they will outdo the Costa Ricans. As stated by Pharaoh’s representative Javier Lopez, "We are going to prepare the biggest gallo pinto in the world because it is 100-percent Nica!" Two weeks later, 15 chefs from Managua’s hotels and restaurants prepared 1,200 pounds of rice and beans, which fed 9,000 people.

But year after year the battled raged on. Officially, the Guinness Book of World Records states that Nicaragua currently holds the world record for making the largest pot of gallo pinto. The record was set on September 15, 2007 (now known as "Gallo Pinto Day") when a  steaming vat had fed 22,200 people in a widely publicized event at the Pharaoh’s Casino in Managua. To answer that achievement, Costa Rica blew away the competition in 2009 by feeding 50,000 people after cooking 3,300 pounds of rice and 2,640 pounds of beans. It was prepared by several dozen chefs at the Hotel Ramada Plaza Herradura, located west of San José. The Pharaoh’s Casino currently has no plans to continue its "gallo pinto day."

Perhaps more focus is being spent on the ongoing border dispute along the Río San Juan. But that is another heated issue between the two countries for another time that does not look like it will end soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment