My Bowl Of Perk Me Up

By BobbyRica | April 12, 2011

rondon

I am a very active person. I jog before dawn, start work at seven in the morning, and hit the beach for a swim before it hits noon. I normally have energy for the entire day but sometimes, my body gets tired and worn down. With more work in the afternoon and evening, I need something to rev me up for the remainder of the day. When that happens, I make a beeline to the nearest soda and get myself a steaming bowl of what I call “perk me up”. I order rondon soup.

This Costa Rican (and Nicaraguan) dish is a hearty soup that never fails to fill me up and sustain me. It is a spicy coconut or milk-enriched soup/stew made from fish or anything that is available in the pantry. Rondon is patois for “run-down”. The cook, back in the old days, literally has to “run down the coast or jungle”. Hence the name. The cooks forage around for tubers (like sweet potatoes, yuca or cassava) and corn; then hunt wild chicken, fish heads (usually carp), or to the purists, the paca (Agouti paca). It’s a native species of nocturnal jungle rodents no bigger than a small dog. But hunting paca is forbidden nowadays so you can only get them farm raised in supermarkets. I have tasted paca before but I will reserve that for a future entry. I especially enjoy it with shredded breadfruit and habanero chilis.

rondon2

Rondon soup is Jamaican in origin. I instinctively knew about this because Costa Rican food is generally bland. And the ingredient that lends spice to the soup is the quite hot and quite Jamaican habanero chile. The soup is creamy but the chiles gives it that extra zing. Upon further research, I learned that rondon was introduced by Afro-Caribbean descendents who arrived in Port Limon during late nineteen century. It is also a festive dish that is sold during holidays in Port Limon.

If you’re not used to chiles, do what the cook in the soda does. She leaves the habanero chili until the end and takes it out upon serving. It will render some of its heat. It also creates a wonderful subtle spiciness to the coconut milk that doesn’t burn the tongue. If you enjoy chiles like I do, I pierce the pepper with a few nicks of a knife. I let the hot oils render in the simmering coconut broth.

Here’s a recipe that I use when I entertain American visitors (who also happen to be chiliheads). It is also near in taste to what I buy in the sodas. Mind you, there are many versions of rondon soup. Each one differs in every household and in very neighborhood. But I assure you, rondon is one Costa Rica dish that you should sample. Incidentally, my friend Akasha also sent me this recipe. This is a lot more decadent with the the shrimp and crabs. But it’s no less amazing!

Enjoy the taste of the Caribbean by enjoying a hot steaming bowl of Rondon soup. Only here in Costa Rica.

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