Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ecuadorian Introduction

I have a new favorite snack. What is it, you ask? Potato cakes! Not potato pancakes, but potato cakes. Don't worry, latkes, you will always be my first love. But these particular potato cakes are not from the old country, they're from the new world of Ecuador. Soft, yellow tinged mashed potatoes, fried crisp on both sides. Like a big, round french fry.
Monday night was dinner at Hornado Ecuatoriano, on 76th and Roosevelt. Although I am supposed to start with Woodside this week, I made plans with Rebecca, a fellow blogger, at this restaurant since it worked for both of our projects. For me, it's on my route, even if I haven't made it to Jackson Heights yet, and for Rebecca, of Fabulously Unforeign, a stop on her world tour. A world tour of New York, since she is "trying to eat the world in one year - without leaving New York City. . . attempting to eat at restaurants from 155 different countries / territories." Of course many of the countries on her list are best represented in Queens, and Ecuador is one of them. So we met for dinner, shared a few plates, and traded blogging stories.

Our meal began with drinks. Jugos naturales, fresh juices made with either water or milk. We both chose milk. I got the mora, a type of blackberry, as suggested by our very helpful waitress, and Rebecca got pineapple. Mine was good. A very light, not too sweet, frothy milkshake. Of course I drank mine too fast, but at $4.00 each I was not planning on ordering another.
For an appetizer we split a quimbolito. It wasn't our first choice, but they were out of humitas.
Quimbolitos, as prepared at this restaurant, are much like a sweet tamal, but made with a coarser meal than Mexican masa. Imagine a softer, more pudding-like corn bread, with a few raisins tossed in.

I was very excited when the waitress placed this on the table:
which looked very similar to my very very favorite Peruvian green sauce. I tasted it, and yes! Thicker, and garlickier than the Pollo Peruano version, but green sauce all the same. Oh, that sauce. On a side note, it is particularly delicious on fried rice.

After much deliberation and many questions to our very patient server, we decided to get a bandera, which has smaller portions of 3 different entrees, along with rice, hominy, salad, and the aforementioned potato cake. I knew I wanted the hornado (lechon), since it seemed advisable to order the namesake dish of the restaurant. That was a given, as was the ceviche. But then the difficult choice between seco de chivo or guatita. We learned that guatita is tripe and seco de chivo is not dry goat, as the name might suggest to us non-Ecuadorians, but more stew-like. For some reason or other we settled on the goat. Here is La Bandera from a few different angles.
Seco de chivo. Very tender pieces of mild goat meat, falling off the bone, simmered in a reddish, tomato-based sauce. It was quite delicious, and the meat was meltingly soft. It reminded me of brisket, and not for the first time on this tour. Remember the Nepali soup? All roads lead back to Jewish holiday food. For me, anyway.

The famous hornado, lying on a bed of hominy. The skin was crackly and crisp, but the meat was sort of tough, and I was very disappointed. I chalked it up to Monday night, and am assuming that on the weekends it is the best lechon ever. Right? I hope so. The hominy, or mote, soaked up all of the flavors on the plate. Fluffy and tasty.
Ceviche consisted of 3 shrimp, some red onions, and lime juice. I ate one, it was fine.
I was much more excited about the avocado, and that beautiful yellow potato cake perched so regally upon its rice throne. I always assumed, when I passed them on the street vendor's grills, that they were corn cakes or plantain. How wrong I was. The waitress told me that they were called tortilla de papa, but I am going to investigate further. And soon. It was a pleasant meal, filled with food that was unfamiliar yet comforting, a Telemundo novela on the screen above, and good conversation. There will be many more restaurants and carts from this interesting country in my future, so I'm glad that Ecuador and I have been formally introduced. It was nice to meet you, and your potato cakes.

Hornado Ecuatoriano
76-18 Roosevelt Ave
Jackson Heights


  1. I'm curious about the quimbolitos. How did you like them and the price? Thanks!

  2. Your blog is wonderful. I just moved to Sunnyside late last year, and am making my way down the 7 train as well. I'm going to try those quimbolitos...

  3. Gar: The quimbolitos were $2 each. I liked them enough, but I feel like I need to try others to compare. I will write about them when I do.
    Lisa: Thanks so much! I'd love to hear your experiences as you discover new places.