From big bowls of mac and cheese to hearty roast dinners, comfort food comes in all shapes and sizes. However, through my adventures around the world, I have noticed one dish, that is served as a comfort food globally. And that, my fellow travelers, is the infamous rice and beans!
Rice and beans are staple in each culture for some very good reasons. Rice is full of minerals and vitamins, and it has many health benefits such as controlling blood pressure and cancer prevention. It is also full of carbohydrates so it’s a great way to fuel your body! Beans are also a nutrient-dense food, that is high in protein and is an antioxidant. All of this means it is a great meal to have while traveling! Depending on the recipe, it is also great for gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian diets, so there is a variant on this classic for everyone!
Below are three different but delicious meals which incorporate rice and beans as the main staple ingredients!
- Costa Rican Gallo Pinto
If I told you I had eaten rice and beans for 3 weeks straight for every meal, you might have thought I was crazy, and that I must not have chosen this fate. But I guarantee you, it was by choice, and it happens to everyone who travels to Costa Rica! Gallo Pinto is a wonderful mix of black beans, white/brown rice, onion, garlic and a mix of spices. But the key ingredient is the table sauce of the country, Lizano Salsa! It can be found as common as Ketchup in Costa Rica, and is the “Not So Secret Sauce” for this delicious recipe.
When I say that I ate rice and beans for 3 weeks straight, I was not joking! Gallo Pinto is breakfast, lunch and dinner is Costa Rica, with different variants throughout the day. During my first time in Costa Rica my Spanish was not the best, so I thought that I might try to order what I thought was gallo pinto con pollo (Rice and beans with chicken). Thinking I would have some small pieces of chicken in my rice and beans. To my pleasant surprise, I was presented with a KFC size fried chicken leg atop my mountain of Gallo Pinto!
- Rajma Pulao from India
Rajma Pulao is a thick, vegetarian gravy of kidney beans, spices such as cumin, coriander and cinnamon with Basmati rice. You can make this dish as spicy or as mild as you would like, but be prepared if you are going to India, they like their spices!
This is a very popular dish in Northern India and Nepal. In most Asian countries, rice is in abundance, so there are many other rice and bean combinations available, and as most of the country is vegetarian, there is no end to the variations.
Fun Fact: Kidney beans are not native to India. They were actually brought over from Mexico centuries ago, and have now become a staple in their cuisine!
- Koshari, The Egyptian national dish
Koshari has its place as Egypt’s national dish. This spicy combo of rice, lentils, tomato sauce, chickpeas and small pasta will have your mouth watering when you visit Egypt. As weird as the combo sounds, it is a rich comfort food good enough for the Pharaohs! Actually, the dish has only recently been popular since British colonization.
Although it is rich enough to be on the menu for the ancient Pharaohs, it has actually only been popular since British colonization of India, where it is actually believed to have orignated from.
It is very popular among labourers and families (remember rice and beans gives you energy for the work day). You can find this delicious treat in restaurants and on the side of the road food stands.Our Adventure Specialist Madelyn from our Toronto office says that she lived off of it on her “Egypt Adventure” tour this fall!