On a flying visit through Riobamba I didn’t really get a chance to fully experience the city, but I did get a taste of what was a far bigger place than I had expected. This was a stopover en-route to Cuenca and the Vilcabamba.
I needed food. Wandering down towards where the hostel owners suggested were some good eateries, I stumbled across a little side street full of street food traders. Was my stomach ready to give it a go? For sure. Ecuadorian families and friends sat cramped at tables eating plates of rice and meat – the set evening meal for $3. The air was full of chatter and seasoned smells. There was generally very little differentiation between each stall on the main stretch, but a bit further along were a few alternative options. My favourite, however, had to be the empañada lady who initially wasn’t best pleased to be serving tourists but then once we returned she broke into a smile. The return was clearly an approval of her meat and cheese pastries. A little further along, a couple were selling all sorts of breads. The pan with honey was amazing; dense and gooey and filling. Another little lady was selling some mysterious looking food wrapped in leaves. It was quimbolito – a sweet, moist corn cake steamed in a leaf and eaten with ones fingers. Delicious.
All this street food sat sweetly in my belly. It was so much better than the proper, more expensive restaurants. The mix of tastes, the atmosphere, the buzz of the place. I could eat there every night.