Exploring the cuisine of a foreign country is an excellent, and often delicious, way to embrace the culture of a foreign land. Fortunately for those travelers heading to Costa Rica, the Central American nation has an abundance of tasty treats to offer guests to their country. Though the nation's cuisine may have much to offer during breakfast, lunch and dinner, its desserts may be the sweetest surprise of all for culinary travelers.
Of the many desserts available in the Central American nation, few are as celebrated as tres leches cake. Travel publisher National Geographic has called tres leches cake the national dessert of Costa Rica. Tres leches is typically prepared as a moist sponge or butter cake that is then soaked with a trio of different kinds of milk - evaporated, condensed and whole milk.. Despite all of this fluid, tres leches is not soggy or unpleasant, instead boasting a uniquely light and airy texture that only adds to the experience.
Miel de Chiverre
For those travelers who prefer fresh fruit to more confectionery sweets, locally grown miel de chiverre can make for an exquisite dessert. Chiverre, a large melon-like squash that features a unique texture similar to a pumpkin. This dessert is typically reserved for the local Semana Santa, or Holy Week, the week before Easter. This sugary treat requires a significant amount of effort to cook. The hard outer shell of the squash must be broken apart with a hammer so that chefs can get to the gourd's sweet flesh, which resembles spaghetti. The stringy contents of the chiverre are then dried, after which they are cooked with sugar, tamarind seeds, cinnamon, cloves, citrus peels and coconut.
Costa Rican Flan
Of course, those travelers interested in trying a traditional Latin American treat will definitely want to sample some of Costa Rica's flan. This caramel custard dish is silky and delicate, and can be paired with any number of dessert toppings such as fresh fruit, chocolate chips and whipped cream. Flan is very common in the region and in recent years has even expanded into Asia, with Japan and Vietnam taking quite a shine to the dish.
Chocolate is also very popular in Costa Rica particularly in small desserts like milanes, as toppings on Cono capuchino (an ice cream cone) and as a layer on top of queque seco, Costa Rican pound cake. With many plantations in the Caribbean lowlands, the country's chocolate industry has become a tourist destination in and of itself. Visitors to a cacao plantation can see the process by which the sweet treat is harvested and made on a guided tour, after which they can sample local chocolates as they try to catch a glimpse of the sloths, monkeys, birds and other wild animals that live in the cacao trees. Some larger plantations offer a wide array of snacks, including chocolate cake and bananas dipped in hot chocolate sauce. Other manufacturers add exotic local ingredients to their chocolate, include ginger, coconut, vanilla and nuts.
Other popular desserts that travelers may want to try include the corn starch pudding known as mazamorra, the sweet pan de maiz (corn bread) or the thick and filling torta chilena, which include a layer of dulce de leche among many other things.