Arts, Culture & Media

This way to a bowl of sancocho

Cafeteria Manolo.jpg

The sancocho is delicious at Cafeteria Manolo


Steve Dolinsky

Who doesn't like stew?

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Sometimes it's just the perfect meal. A big bowl of hearty slow-cooked stew.   One of my favorites things about travelling ot Russia is the chance to enjoy a  bowl of borscht with my friends Sasha and Tanya who live on Vasilievsky Island in Saint Petersburg.

Borscht can take a while to prepare. Russians like to chop up the fresh ingredients from their summer gardens and slowly simmer the red cabbage and beets with  sauteed onions, caraway seeds, potatoes, carrots, celery, and of course a little dill weed and sour cream to top it off.

It's so good, I heard they served it to the Olympic athletes at Sochi.

But  there's another stew I want to tell you about which leads to our Geo Quiz:

Not just any stew. It's a Latin American favorite called sancocho.

Sancocho may  originally have come from the Canary Islands, the cluster of  Spanish islands off the coast of West Africa. 

But now there are variations of sancocho throughout Latin America in  Puerto Rico and Colombia for instance.

But it's also considered the national dish in a certain Central American country (hint: Central America includes the countries of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama).

Here's a final clue. A bowl of sancocho will cost you around 1 and a half balboa,  or 150 centésimos, the equivalent of a $1.50 in this country. 

Can you name the most southern country in Central America where home made sancocho is a local favorite?

The answer to this Geo Quiz comes courtesy of food writer Steve Dolinsky.  Have a listen to his audio postcard from Central America.

And if you like to cook while you listen to the podcast, here's a basic recipe for Panamanian Sanchocho: 


Panamanian Sancocho

YIELD: 6 Servings

PREP: 15 mins  COOK: 1 hr 30 mins  READY IN: 1 hr 45 mins

Sancocho is an easy-to-make soup/stew.  

Add  root vegetables as you wish;  Don't hurry. Sancocho only gets more flavorful with time.



3 cloves garlic pressed

2 Tbsp oregano

3 tsp salt

4 Tbsp culantro chopped (cilantro works)

1 medium onion chopped fine

2 quarts water

2 ears corn cut into 2


Season the chicken with the garlic, oregano and salt. 

In a heavy pot, brown the seasoned chicken over a medium flame and allow to sweat.

Set a little culantro/cilantro aside for garnish at the end. Add the rest of the culantro/cilantro, onion and water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the root vegetables. Cook until everything softens, about one hour. Keep adding water so the veggies stay about an inch under water.

Add the corn and cook 15 minutes more, until corn is tender. 

Garnish with a bit of the chopped culantro/cilantro and serve.