Try this marvelous gallo pinto dish

Published 1:44 am Saturday, January 23, 2016

By Tinsley Anderson

Last year I went to Nicaragua for a diving trip. Through some research, I found the Corn Islands on the outskirts of Nicaragua- Big Corn and Little Corn. The national airline, La Costena, flies into Big Corn. Then you have to take the panga, a small boat holding up to 40 people with a powerful motor attached, to Little Corn. The panga ride can be pleasant or treacherous. On my ride to Little Corn, there was rough surf so I was soaked to the bone and had bruises on my knees from knocking into the bench in front of me. On the ride back, it was a clear, surf-less day and the ride took half the time (40 minutes).


I only spent one night on Big Corn, which was full of cars, traffic and the business of an island city. Little Corn was a lovely small protrusion in the ocean with a wonderful, relaxed, very small town feel. Even in eight days, I got to know the owners of shops and cafes and even some of the cats, dogs, chickens and goats. I stayed on the West side of the Island, which was a rough (not really) 15-minute walk from the main dock on a sand path. There were adorable wild chickens with softly chirping chicks scattered throughout the woods along the sand path. As I had arranged my accommodations beforehand, there was a porter to meet us with a wheelbarrow. By accommodations, I mean a one-room hut on stilts, ocean front, with electricity from about 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., for $30/night. With an ocean breeze through the windows, no air conditioning was necessary.

The diving was amazing. I saw sea turtles who are so graceful underwater and so awkward on land; the red beady eyes of lobsters and shrimp hiding under rocks and coral; the slowly flapping dorsal fins of invading lion fish; the common but still beautiful parrot fish; the iridescent flora and fauna at night while sitting on the bottom of the ocean; huge grouper acting like dogs, following us around, waiting for a piece of speared lion fish.

One day after diving, some person from the “hotel” said that they were having a “rondon” and did we want to participate? I asked him what it was and he took us to see. There was an old man with a wooden paddle stirring a large cauldron of fish and water over an open fire in the back of the huts of our accommodations. I’m not much for fish stew but the solicitor allowed the old man to put some of the hot stew into his hands and he fed it to us. It was the most amazing fish stew I’d ever tasted. They call it rondon. In the end I liked the broth much more than the fish and shellfish meat components but my compatriots did not feel the same.

An ubiquitous food stuff was gallo pinto, “spotted chicken” or a version of red beans and rice. The beans were black but it comes to about the same. It was an accompaniment to almost every dish I had in Nica. I came to enjoy it and some places did it much better than others. There was a buttery warmth to my favorite gallo pinto.

I’m planning on going to Costa Rica next month and learn how to surf. Tico (Costa Rican) food is very similar to Nicaraguan (Nica). I thought I would try to figure out how to recreate those buttery beans and rice, Gallo Pinto that I had in Nica. So I tried multiple different recipes, some came out dry, some too oily, etc. The following is the best recipe I found and could replicate. Unfortunately, it takes a day to soak the beans and the rice is better as a left over.


Gallo Pinto (“Spotted Chicken” Beans and Rice)

2 Cups long grain rice

1 16 oz bag of Central American Beans or small black beans (Goya brand)

1 strip of bacon

1 medium onion

1 green pepper

Cooking oil (canola or olive oil)

Chicken broth (4 cups or 2 bouillon cubes)

Soak beans in cold water overnight in the fridge. Chop onion and saute for 3-4 minutes in oil. Add the rice and stir. Saute rice and onion until rice is translucent. Add chicken broth and with roughly chopped green pepper on top. Discard green pepper after cooking. Rice can be made the same day but better the day after cooking. After soaking, cook beans with a strip of bacon for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Drain beans. Heat 2-3 tbsp of oil in large saute pan and add beans and rice. Combine well and serve warm with grilled vegetables, fish or meat.