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The Latin American nation's open- air food marts will appeal to Indians

ECUADOR may not ring a bell with most Indians, but its food certainly will. The people of Ecuador love their onions, tomatoes, coriander and pepper as much as we do, and they lay as much stress on fresh produce bought off the market.

These principal features of the Latin American country's table were evident at an interaction with Chef Gonzalo Davila, who was at the ITC Maurya in the city to promote Ecuador's undiscovered cuisine. Ecuador teems with crowded markets where people go to buy fresh produce and dig into street food. Empanadas, considered the king of snacks in many Latin American nations, is a Quito favourite. These essentially are baked samosa s filled with beef, chicken, cheese or vegetables.

Another street favourite is mote con chicharrEn , which is sold by women walking around with cooking pots packed with the main ingredients -- mote ( corn grits), white corn and chicharrEn ( salty pork rind with some meat still on it).

If you take Davila's advice, the best way to discover Ecuador is to check out its local food markets. Here are four of his favourites: OTAVALO: Otavalo, which is an hour and a half north of Quito, is a small Native American village, which is known for its food and handicrafts.

Situated in a valley, and surrounded by the magnificent Imbabura, Cotacachi and Mojanda volcanoes, the market gets busy on Saturdays. Its meat market, which opens for business at six in the morning, is crowded with stalls selling sheep carcass, pork and seafood. " If you wish to sample our famous dishes, check out the makeshift kitchens around the market with humungous pots of boiling stews, fried meats and potatoes," Davila says.

CUENCA: This is not popular with tourists, but chefs from the neighbouring areas pick up their poultry, fruits and vegetables from here. " You can get different kinds of herbs and spices, some of these are not even available in other popular markets of Ecuador," says Davila. But if you wish to see some of the unique flowers of South America, Cuenca is the place.

Also, every Thursday, there's an artisans fair and on Tuesday and Friday traditional healing treatments are available to people.

GUAMOTE: Thursday is when you go to Guamote, 38 km south of Riobamba. Even if you don't enjoy in- your- face meats, this market is fun to see. Cattle, horses, llama, sheep, and pigs are a common sights here and " if you have good bargaining skills, you might just get one of them for a cool price," Davila says.

Corn, which is a key ingredient in Ecuador's cuisine, can be bought from the market and so can heaps of lima beans, wheat, barley and the much sought- after quinoa, which oozes health benefits.

SAQUISILI: Located just 45 minutes northwest of Latacunga, it offers just about everything, from poultry, fruits and vegetables, to flowers and even traditional handicrafts.

The market operates only on Thursdays, so make sure you don't miss the sight, especially the street performances that enrich the atmosphere there.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:3ECUD
Date:Nov 8, 2009
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