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Restaurants in Panama

Besides local dishes you can find authentic French, Japanese, Italian, Thai, Middle Eastern, and Chinese food in Panama restaurants. Most Panamanian restaurants are casual—diners, beachfront cafes, and roadside fondas (food stands). A large U.S. population has spawned North American cafes and bistros serving burgers and other fast-foods.

The best restaurants in Panama serve local cuisine. The country's wide variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs are a big part of native dishes. Because of its history and proximity to Caribbean neighbors, Panamanian cooking combines African, Caribbean, Spanish, and Native American foods. Main ingredients include: maize, rice, wheat flour, plantains, cassava, beef, chicken, pork and seafood.

Restaurants in Panama typically serve the following:

Tortilla Changa: a thick tortilla made out of fresh corn.

Bollos: corn dough wrapped in corn husk or plantain leaves and boiled. Stuffed with beef they are called bollo "preñado."

Torrejitas de maíz: a fresh corn fritter. Almojábanos are "S" shaped corn fritters.

Empanadas are the Panamanian answer to the sandwich: Crunchy cornmeal pastries stuffed with meat are greasy but good when they're fresh and hot.

Hojaldras: A type of fry-bread.

Yuca is also used for a carimañola; the yuca is mashed and formed into a roll stuffed with meat and boiled eggs, then deep-fried.

Green plantains are cut in rounds, pounded and deep-fried, and salted. Plátanos maduros, ripe plantains, broiled or sautéed in oil. Ripe plantains are also called plátanos en tentación when they are slightly caramelized with sugar and cinnamon. Plantains and patacones, along with coconut rice (arroz con coco) and beans (frijoles), are the standard accompaniment to traditional Panamanian dishes.

Seafood is fresh and plentiful. Ceviche, raw cubes of fish and onion marinated in lemon juice, is a popular dish throughout Latin America. Also try: pargo (red snapper), corvina (sea bass), langostino (jumbo shrimp), langosta (lobster), calamari, cangrejo (crab), and pulpo (octopus). You can have it fried, grilled, al ajillo (with a spicy garlic sauce), or a la española (sautéed with tomatoes and onions).

Sancocho, a chicken stew made with a starchy root called ñamé and seasoned with a cilantro-like herb called culantro. Pork is also a staple.

In Boquete, be sure to visit The Rock!

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