Improving the national menu could have a favorable impact on tourism

Expats sometimes complain about what they see as a limited menu in Costa Rica. Rice and beans do play a big role in the diet of many Ticos. But there are options.

For example there is the Caribbean culture where rondón, the traditional soup, takes many forms. And there is the patty, the Jamaican meat pastry.

Like most countries, the menu is highly regionalized. The culture ministry has embarked on a number of annual contests to have locals bring out their regional dishes. The result has been a series of booklets preserving the recipes of the regional dishes.

Then there is a formal effort to tickle the local palates.

The Plan Nacional de Gastronomía Sostenible y Saludable has as one goal the creation of new food products both for exportation and for local consumption.

Costa Rica is in the big time next week when chefs Luis Guillermo Castro and Lizbeth Rodríguez Benavides and Alejandro Madrigal, director of the restaurant chamber, go to Galacia, Spain, to show off Costa Rican cuisine. Costa Rica is the invited country for the annual Feria Xantar 2015 in Ourense.

Madrigal also is the national coordinator of the Plan Nacional de la Gastronomía as well as the executive director of the Cámara Costarricense de Restaurantes e Afins.

The food fair runs from Wednesday through the weekend and attracts thousands. Other presenters will be from Galicia and nearby Portugal.

The fair already is promoting on its Web site Costa Rican favorites like the casado, the marriage of rice, beans, meat and platanos that is a typical lunch.

Fair goers also are promised sopa negra, mondongo, the patty and even rondón.

For the restaurant chamber and other Costa Rican officials this development of a unique Costa Rican cuisine also is a way to draw tourists.

Local chefs have been experimenting for years using perhaps a thousand plant species that can be incorporated into cooking. The chamber, the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, the Instituto Costarricnse de Turismo and a host of other government agencies are involved.

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