Saturday, February 9, 2013

Eating World Class Vigaron in Nicaragua

I was fortunate enough to recently travel to Nicaragua again, a truly wonderful country that seems primed for a tourist explosion as the country's long history of violence fades from the memories of nationals and foreigners alike. But I'm not here to wax prosaic about the tragic story of Nicaragua's not-too-distant suffering under the boot of Reagan's imperialist paranoia, but rather to talk about food.


It's hard to talk about Nicaragua, however, without making mention of its decades of war and its notorious rank near the top of the poorest countries on this side of the globe. And when talking about the cuisine it's hard not to think about the rationing they went on in their tumultuous past. It is in that context that I introduce what is often considered Nicaragua's national dish, vigaron.

Vigaron is a delightfuly simple dish consisting of cheap and readily available ingredients. Some might call it "peasant food," but I tend to prefer less paternalistic terms, so let's just say its something that bridges all class divisions. The point is, there is nothing fancy to vigaron: a bed of boiled yuca covered by shards of chicharrones and topped with a cabbage and vinegar salad.


The one I had also had a fresh tomato and shredded carrots, but the main plate is so utterly simple--and most importantly--delicious. The soft, tasteless tuber is a perfect bed to sop up the flavor of the slaw, and the contrast of the crunchy pig skin is a perfect compliment. Each paired combination of the three main ingredients is good, but scooping slaw and yuca onto a mouth-sized chunk of chicharron is truly great.


Nicaragua is many things and food is not the first thing that pops into my mind when I am going there. But every country or culture has its own simple, universally loved foods, and in that category, vigaron is world class.

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