Eating fritada in Ecuador is a popular weekend activity, especially for those living or visiting the Sierra or Andean Highlands. It’s a common practice for people living in the cities to go for a paseo or getaway to the smaller villages (pueblos). Some people have weekend fincas (small farms) or second homes in these country side pueblos; while others just go for the day. In these small towns, and on the way, you will find many restaurants and food stands that sell a variety of traditional food (comida típica). One of the most popular weekend dishes is fritada de chancho, a pork dish made by cooking chunks of pork in large pans with water until the water has been consumed and the pork is left to cook itself in its own fat. The results are delicious pieces of pork that are crispy and golden on the outside while juicy and tender inside.
Fritada is served with side dishes including mote or hominy corn, boiled yuca or cassava, fried ripe plantains, llapingachos or potato patties, tomato and onion curtido sauce, aji or freshly made hot sauce, maíz tostado or cancha corn nuts, and more. The sides will vary from one place to another. In the South, it almost always includes boiled yuca. In the Northern part of Ecuador, it’s more common to see fritada served with llapingachos or potato patties instead of yuca. In the Central and North, it’s also very popular to have a platter of traditional food called chugchucaras that includes pork fritada, fried pork rinds, empanadas, hominy corn, popcorn, tostado corn, fried plantains, llapingacho potato patties or boiled potatoes, and aji hot sauce.
The fritada food stands also usually offer other delicious pork dishes, including the mouthwatering chicharrones or deep fried pork belly. In some places, the fried pork skins or rinds are called chicharrones, but in the Ecuadorian Sierra we know chicharrones as deep fried pork belly. The fried pork skins are called cueritos, if they’re roasted then we call them cascaritas. Another traditional dish that you can find at these village restaurants is sancocho de chancho, a soup made with pork and vegetables like yuca, corn, and plantains.
Of course, every part of the pig must be used, so there’s also a dish called chanfaina, which uses all the pork organs and guts. There are many variations of chanfaina, but the one prepared in my home province of Loja is usually made with pork liver, pork intestines, pork tongue, and other parts, a bunch of spices, garlic, onions, herbs, potatoes, and rice. It’s one of those dishes that you either love or hate (as seems to be the case with most dishes that involve animal organs).
The weekend fritada experience is usually a family and friends activity. For special occasions in these small towns, some people will also “pelar a chancho” or butcher an entire pig. There’s usually more than enough meat for the entire family, so they also will set up a little table outside their house and sell the meat and fritada/chicharrones to the neighbors and those passing by. Most people know when someone butchers a pig in a small town, so they will go buy some meat from them. At both restaurants and food stands you can also buy fritada and chicharrones to go.
Of course, you can find fritada at most restaurants that prepare traditional food in the cities, from the hole in the wall places (called huecas in Ecuador) to more upscale fancy places that cater to tourists or those afraid of eating on the side of the road. Personally I find that the taste and the experience of eating fritada in a small town is so much better, but it helps to have inside knowledge or have local recommendations on which are the best places for fritada. One of my favorite places to eat fritada in the Loja area, is in a small town called Landangui. It’s located in between Loja and Vilcabamba, right before you get to Malacatos. The intersection in this little town is famous for fritada and is packed on weekends.
Ecuadorian pork fritada is also very easy to make at home. It does take a few hours of cooking, but uses easy to find and simple ingredients: pork, garlic, onions, cumin, and orange juice. Some of the side dishes like mote hominy corn and yuca might be harder to find, but you can replace them with other side dishes.