Sandra A. Gutierrez: A Tropical Vacation on a Stick

Latin American Street Food by Sandra A. GutierrezToday’s guest post (with recipe!) comes from Sandra A. Gutierrez, author of Latin American Street Food: The Best Flavors of Markets, Beaches, and Roadside Stands from Mexico to Argentina. From tamales to tacos, food on a stick to ceviches, and empanadas to desserts, Sandra A. Gutierrez’s Latin American Street Food takes cooks on a tasting tour of the most popular and delicious culinary finds of twenty Latin American countries, including Mexico, Cuba, Peru, and Brazil, translating them into 150 easy recipes for the home kitchen. These exciting, delectable, and accessible foods are sure to satisfy everyone. And hey, have you seen the book trailer?

In the following post, Gutierrez explains the simplicity in creating a vivacious and fun treat full of Latin American flavor and shares a delicious recipe for an easy frozen dessert.

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I enjoyed writing and eating my way along the recipes that ended up in the pages of Latin American Street Food: The Best of Markets, Beaches, and Roadside Stands from Mexico to Argentina. What is there not to love about cooking great and fun food every day? So I did it. I took the plunge and delved into the fabulous and exciting world of Latin American street foods, tasting, relishing, and selecting some of the most exciting and delicious recipes in the world for inclusion in this book. It was a succulent adventure that I hope you’ll take with me each time you recreate these recipes.

One of the things I discovered while doing the research for this book is that many Latin American street foods are very easy to make and only require a few ingredients at their peak of freshness. There are the oranges sprinkled with pepitoria (pumpkin seed powder), and the mango salads marinated in lime juice; and there are the myriad paletas or fruit popsicles made with fresh juices. If you think we know all there is to know about corn in the cob in this country, you’ll be surprised by the various renditions found in the streets south of the border where they’re grilled to perfection and sprinkled with cheese, or wrapped in bacon, or drizzled in lime juice and sprinkled with salt.

One of the biggest misconceptions I find about Latin American food is that it’s complicated to make—but nothing could be further from the truth. I give you plenty of examples of no fuss, no muss recipes that require only basic skills in the kitchen but produce magical and fun flavors. Given that food vendors prepare their food in makeshift kitchens, many recipes hardly have any real cooking involved. My book is filled with such recipes including succulent ceviches, salads, and desserts that only require you to combine ingredients together and stir. I also include a collection of salads that belong in what I call the “toss and eat” category, and salsas that can be blended in an instant.

Such is the case of these scrumptious chocolate-covered bananas, or Chocobananos, that Latin American kids have been enjoying for decades. All you really need to know is how to melt chocolate slowly over a water bath so that it will melt without scorching (or quickly in the microwave), and to freeze bananas. That’s it. However the results are fabulous! Each bite is like a tropical vacation for your palate: comforting, cool, and creamy all at once.

Four ingredients and no special tools required. Just grab a few sticks and have fun creating these easy and quick, portable desserts. When you’re in the streets, it’s all about the food and all about the flavor. Do yourself a favor and indulge in these chocobananos once in a while. You’ll be glad you did.

Chocolate-Covered Bananas (Chocobananos). Photo by Fred Thompson

Chocolate-Covered Bananas (Chocobananos). Photo by Fred Thompson

Chocolate-Covered Bananas (Chocobananos)

From Latin American Street Food: The Best Flavors of Markets, Beaches, and Roadside Stands from Mexico to Argentina, by Sandra A. Gutierrez. Copyright © 2013 by Sandra A. Gutierrez.

It’s important to freeze the bananas very well so that they’re sturdy when you dunk them into the chocolate; if they aren’t frozen solid, they’ll break into pieces. Once frozen, work swiftly—the chocolate sets quickly after they’re dipped. I’m told these keep well in the freezer for a few months, but I wouldn’t know because, in my home, they’re devoured immediately.

Serves 8

  • 4 ripe but firm bananas, peeled and cut in half crosswise
  • 8 popsicle sticks
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup finely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Insert a popsicle stick into each banana half; place them on the prepared sheet (so they aren’t touching each other). Freeze them until solid (for at least 3 hours, up to 3 days).

Melt the chocolate on top of a double boiler over very low heat, stirring until smooth. Dip the frozen bananas into the chocolate; working quickly (or the chocolate will set), sprinkle one side of the banana with coconut and the other side with peanuts. Place the bananas back on the prepared sheet and freeze them again for 10–20 minutes before serving. Once frozen solid, these will keep well in a freezer-safe container or bag for up to 3 months.

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Sandra A. Gutierrez, who grew up in the United States and Guatemala, is a food writer, culinary instructor, and recipe developer.  She is author of Latin American Street Food: The Best Flavors of Markets, Beaches, and Roadside Stands from Mexico to Argentina and The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes That Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South.  She lives in Cary, N.C. Visit her website sandraskitchenstudio.com, and follow her on Twitter @sandralatinista. Check for upcoming events on her author page on the UNC Press website.