(Offshorewave) A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a representative of the Travel Channel who wanted information about strange and bizarre foods in Panama; she was trying to determine whether or not Panama would be a good place to set the show Bizarre Foods hosted by Andrew Zimmern. The Travel Channel wanted to shoot the episode during Carnival celebrations.
Panama had a lot of strange and bizarre foods; in fact, I had eaten lots of strange and bizarre foods while living in the remote countryside of Panama. The problem was that I didn’t always know exactly what it was that I was eating. I couldn’t always put a name to the strange meat I was eating. Fruits and vegetables were easy to identify, but meat was more difficult because of the color and texture. As a general rule in the countryside of Panama, the darker the meat the stranger and rarer the animal. Wanting to help the representative from the Travel Channel, I began to ask around to find out what were some of the more common strange and bizarre foods in Panama.
The first strange and bizarre food I stumbled across was Bulls Balls (Huevos de Toro). Eating the testicles of the bull is considered a delicacy in Panama; you can even find bull’s balls in some supermarkets. Bull’s balls are most popular in the cattle regions of Panama so that means the Azuero Peninsula. There are a number of different ways to cook bull’s balls; the most popular is to cook them with green peppers and onions. You first cut up the balls (picado) and then mix them with the onions and green peppers. This would be good for breakfast.
Another acquired taste in Panama was sow – pig’s foot in a vinaigrette dressing. With sow you boil the pig’s foot and then serve it in the vinaigrette. You have to chew on the foot and rip away at the meat between the toes. This meat is very fatty and tough. The spicier the vinaigrette the better; the foot has little flavor. Pig’s foot is best eaten with a cold beer.
In Colon Province, there is a drink called Icingglass that is made from algae. Icingglass is known for being a very strong aphrodisiac. Whitish in color it is often drank with Pan Bon, a strong cinnamon bread that is very popular with the Afro-Antillean community in Panama. Both Icingglass and Pan Bon are supposed to increase your sex drive when eaten together.
One of the stranger meats I’ve had in Panama is something called bofe – cow lungs. The texture of bofe is sort of spongy and it is often cooked in a thick sauce. Bofe is extremely tasty especially when eaten in the morning with fried bread (hojaldre).
Some of the other strange and bizarre foods in Panama are pig’s tail guacho – a soup with rice and a pig’s tail. Another is Mondongo – cow stomach meat. Cow’s foot soup is another favorite that is supposed to be very nutritious.
The people at the Travel Channel were intrigued by the strange and bizarre foods of Panama – they plan on doing a show here during next year’s Carnival. by Matthew Atlee