I was warned that it is a country of plain food: meat, rice and beans. In my week there (the first half of spring break), I found this to be fairly true–when we weren’t eating Americanized burritos or (surprisingly good) pizza, the majority of our meals were platters composed of white rice, black beans, coleslaw or pickled vegetables, thick white cheese, slightly sour and tender golden fried plantains and perhaps grilled fish from sodas, or small cafeterias selling “typical” Costa Rican food.
But honestly? Plain doesn’t mean bad. After long days of hiking, surfing and beachgoing, I never once got sick of these bountiful platters, and thrived on the huge fried plantain boats filled with salty cheese that we found. (Though now I understand why you don’t find Costa Rican restaurants in the U.S.)
One of my classmates and travel companions for the week had been to Costa Rica twice before and mentioned that her last time in the country had brought an inordinate amount of banana pancakes into her life. I kept an eye out for pancakes the entire trip, but didn’t come across a place that offered them on the menu until we stumbled into an Americanized brunch spot during our last day in the Caribbean side. They were billed as “Caribbean pancakes,” but the stack I received was basically a couple of regular pancakes with a sprinkling of toasted coconut–a far cry from the messy, homey, banana-studded pancakes I had envisioned.
I realize trying to find my ideal pancake in Costa Rica seems silly, but the relevant point is that I got to eventually recreate my ideal pancake at home with the exact right amount of fluff, level of whole wheat heartiness and proportion of shredded coconut and gently crushed banana to bring back the sun-drenched, sandy days of vacation in the Caribbean.
- 1 tablespoon butter melted
- 1 cup almond milk + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 2 eggs separated
- 1/3-1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (to taste)
- 1/2-1 medium banana gently crushed or sliced (to taste)
- Prepare your wet ingredients by melting the butter and setting aside to cool; additionally, stir the apple cider vinegar into the almond milk and set aside to curdle.
- Whisk flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with an electric beater until soft peaks form.
- In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg yolks into the almond milk mixture, then stir in melted, cooled butter. Gently stir the yolk mixture into the egg white mixture until just combined. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined (a few lumps are okay). Batter will be very thick. Fold in coconut and banana.
- Preheat a lightly greased skillet over medium heat. Once hot, cook the pancakes in 3-4 tablespoon increments for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through. Serve immediately.