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Panamanian cuisine is a mix of African, Spanish, and Native American techniques, dishes, and ingredients, reflecting its diverse population. Since Panama is a land bridge between two continents, it has a large variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs that are used in native cooking.
Typical Panamanian foods are mildly flavored, without the pungency of some of Panama's Latin American and Caribbean neighbors. Common ingredients are maize, rice, wheat flour, plantains, yuca (cassava), beef, chicken, pork and seafood.
Corn-based dishes come from the kernel, cooked in water and then ground in order to obtain a dough (as opposed to using corn flour to obtain the dough). Fresh corn is also used in some dishes. Some of the main specialties are:
- Tortillas: These can be around ten to twelve inches in diameter (these are always cooked on a griddle), or smaller, around four inches (most of the time these are fried).
- Bollos: corn dough wrapped in corn husk or plantain leaves and boiled. There are two main varieties: fresh corn bollos (bollos de maíz nuevo) and dry corn bollos. The dry corn type is sometimes flavored with butter, corn, or stuffed with beef, which is called bollo "preñado" (lit. "pregnant bollo").
- Torrejitas (Pastelitos) de maíz: A fresh corn fritter.
- Tortilla Changa: A thick tortilla made out of fresh corn.
- Almojábanos: "S" shaped corn fritters.
- Empanadas: Made either from flour or corn, and stuffed with meats, cheese, and sometimes sweet fillings, such as fruit marmalade or manjar blanco (dulce de leche).
- Hojaldres/Hojaldras: A type of fry-bread, similar to South American countries, known in other countries as "blach tostones".
- Carimañola: Similar to an empanada, but made from yuca and stuffed with beef.
- Arroz con camarones y coco: Rice with shrimp and coconut milk.
- Arroz verde
- Arroz con puerco y vegetales
- Arroz con chorizo y ajíes dulces
- Arroz con pollo
- Carne Entomatada
- Mondongo a la culona: Stewed beef tripe.
- Salpicón de carne
- Lengua guisada: Stewed beef tongue.
- Bistec picado: Chopped beefsteak.
- Pernil de pueco al horno: Roasted pork leg.
- Chorizo con vegetales
- Chuletas en salsa de piña
- Bistec de hígado: Liver steak.
- Ropa vieja
- Ceviche: Commonly made from corvina.
- Fried fish
- Ensalada de papas: Potato salad, called ensalada de feria, when beetroot is added.
- Tamal de olla
- Plátano en tentacion: Ripe plantain cooked in a sweet syrup.
- Tasajo- Dried, sometimes smoked meat, usually from beef though the word refers mainly to the mode of curing rather than the type of meat.
- Bocado de la reina
- Huevitos de leche'
- Pesada de nance
- Tres leches
Others: suspiros, bocadillo, dulce de papaya, dulce de grosella, quequi, gollería (sweetened plantain fritter).
- Ron ponche
- malteada (malted eskimo-like milkshake without ice cream)
- Sorrel (Sorrel is a drink containing sorrel sepals, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, sugar, water, and a splash of rum)
- Fresh fruit juices (licuados or jugos naturales): pineapple, passionfruit, papaya, orange, tree tomato, etc. are prepared by blending fresh fruit and straining; typically heavily sweetened and optionally with condensed milk added
The traditional Panamanian dish for Christmas usually includes chicken tamales, arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), puerca asada, pernil, pavo (turkey), and relleno (stuffing). Bowls of fruits and fruitcake are set out on the tables along with the dishes. Along with these foods and dessert, a traditional drink is served called Ron Ponche (eggnog), consisting of two cans of condensed milk, three cans of evaporated milk, six eggs, and a half a bottle of rum and nutmeg for some extra flavor.