While visiting the Manuel Antonio area of Costa Rica, we took a private cooking class to learn authentic, traditional cuisine. It was a private Costa Rican cooking class offered by the Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort. They were in the process of changing the way they cook, use and source local ingredients. They are now working with local fisherman for fresh fish daily to ensure they weren’t bringing in frozen foods from outside of Costa Rica. Their menu reflects several authentic dishes therefore guests and visitors truly get a delicious and authentic experience. Check out the mouth-watering dishes we learned during the 2 hour class.
Chef Josué was passionate about cooking and eager to share his country’s cuisine through this Coast Rican cooking class. His style was warm and patient as he walked us through each step! Cheers to Josué for being our culinary expert. The class was taught in the open air restaurant with the sound of the waves in the distance. A perfect setting for learning and indulging!
We started our Costa Rica cooking class by making tortillas. We were surprised at how little ingredients were needed to make these beautiful tortillas.
We quickly began the process:
2 Tbs Flour
1 Tbs Sour Cream
1 Tbs Cheese
a pinch of salt
A quick mix with your hands and dough balls start to form in front of you. If you need a little more of one of the ingredients to get the texture right, go ahead and add as needed! Eventually you will get the right proportions. The worst that can happen is you will have a huge tortilla by adding more and more ingredients!
We used our hand to form dough circles. Josué made sure they were not too thick and everything was even before we dropped them on the hot pan to crisp them up on both sides. A quick flip and cook on each side then they were ready to go.
We slid them on to a plate, added some cheese and a dollop of sour cream. By the way, the sour cream in Costa Rica was quite good! It may look like mayonnaise based on the color above but it tasted like sour cream with a bit less “sour.” Now they were ready to eat. These tortillas were a great snack as we moved onto our next dish. BTW, it was amazing how filling just one of these tortillas was to us. It was pretty crazy how those few ingredients made such a hearty appetizer.
Next up we started out a traditional dish in Costa Rica: Gallo Pinto
Josué explained that Costa Rican’s begin their day with Gallo Pinto. It is traditionally prepared for breakfast, but is eaten throughout the day. We were making the traditional, breakfast or base version of Gallo Pinto. Eating it for lunch or dinner? Add some meat or any other of your favorite foods. We learned that it never goes to waste because it can and will be consumed all day long. It usually stays in a large pot or pan on the stove all day.
We quickly began preparing this new dish. We had no idea what it was or what it would taste like until we started adding ingredients:
1/5 Bell Pepper
2 Cups of rice
1/2 Tbs butter
It tasted amazing! We knew we would love it instantly as the flavors were beginning to combine in the pan while the new smells hit our nostrils. We couldn’t resit taking a quick taste as the mixture simmered in the pan.
While the Gallo Pinto was in the process of being cooked, we started preparing our next dish: Ceviche!
We made three different types of ceviche: Traditional, Passion Fruit & Spicy
Passion fruit was Amanda’s favorite while I chose to mix my own special ceviche.. Spicy Passion Fruit!
We used freshly caught red snapper from the ocean. Josué guided us and explained how to dice the fish into small uniform pieces to allow the lemon juice to “cook” the fish evenly. Once we diced the fish, it was time to add the other ingredients. Again, each were diced to a similar size to keep everything uniform. We added: red onions, jalapeño peppers, tomato, lemon juice, salt, pepper and to top it off with a fancy “decoration”… cilantro.
After enjoying the delicious ceviche, it was time to devour the gallo pinto!
Finally for our final course of our Costa Rican cooking class, we learned how to make traditional empanadas!
A simple process to make the empanada “shell” which included 3 simple ingredients: Corn Flour, water and salt. As we continued to form these in our hands, Josue quickly let us on a secret as to how to shape them in a perfect circle. Take the dough ball and place it between two sheets of wax paper then smush it with a flat bottomed plate! Perfect circle complete!
Now the filling! We filled out empanadas with beans, cheese and then finally beans & cheese! The next technique we learned was the proper pinching method to ensure the filling stayed inside.
We carefully slid the empanadas into hot oil in the pot to give them a quick fry.
Once they were a crispy golden brown, we transferred them to a plate and began to dig in! We added some toppings such as fresh made guacamole and pico de gallo.
The meal was delicious and the class was one of the highlights of our stay in the Manuel Antonio area of Costa Rica. We learned a lot about Costa Rican cooking and culture while preparing this meal thanks to Josué. It was so much great food and we ate a ton! It was definitely an early night in for us as we felt like we needed rolled back to our room.
As a bonus, Josué told us that he would be working the next morning in the kitchen during the breakfast hours. He told us to let the waiter know we were at breakfast and he would make us a very special yet traditional breakfast feast!
We did as he said the next morning and we were happily greeted by Josué again when he walked out of the kitchen carrying a tray with our Costa Rican breakfast feast! Hands down our favorite breakfast meal of our entire 10 day trip!
Have you ever prepared a Costa Rican meal?
Have you ever had Gallo Pinto?
If so, how do you make it or what do you add to it?
Let us know in the comments.