When Food Unites

Vigorón served at El Gordito in Granada, Nicaragua. The combination of soft, starchy yucca; salty, rough pork cracklings; and tangy, cool slaw made with cabbage, onions, tomato, mimbre fruit (also known as mimbro), chile and vinegar offers a distinct interplay of textures and flavors. PHOTO: Julie Schwietert Collazo for NPR

Vigorón served at El Gordito in Granada, Nicaragua. The combination of soft, starchy yucca; salty, rough pork cracklings; and tangy, cool slaw made with cabbage, onions, tomato, mimbre fruit, chile and vinegar. PHOTO: Julie Schwietert Collazo for NPR

No matter how different our ethnic backgrounds, beliefs, views and values are, we can all sit around a dinner table and unite in sharing a meal that includes different tastes and types of food from all over the globe – the palate knows no boundaries and no limitations. In a divided country like Nicaragua, all differences melt when it comes to vigoron. The national dish that cuts across political ideologies, economic status, and strong preferences.

It was the taxi driver who dropped me off at the airport at the end of my first trip to the country who was most disappointed that I had not managed to try Nicaragua’s national dish. And I had no good excuse for the oversight: Vigorón is ubiquitous on menus around the country, especially in the city of Granada, where I’d been. The hearty dish of starch, meat and vegetables adorned with condiments can be ordered for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Back home in New York City, I went in pursuit of vigorón, but I couldn’t find it on any menus. And it began to sink in that if I wanted a genuine introduction to vigorón, I’d have to return to Granada, Nicaragua, where it all started. A year later, I was back. Although I was ostensibly there to research a story about the Chinese plan to build a new canal in Nicaragua, admittedly one of my chief reasons for returning was to eat vigorón.

My first priority was to seek out Francisco Javier Gomez Torres, of El Gordito, the food kiosk he’s helmed for nearly 30 years. Everyone I talked to, including Nicaraguan chef and TV personality Hazel Cuadra, seemed to agree that Gomez is a master of vigorón. He sells up to 300 plates of it a day, typically accompanied by a fresco de cacao (a cool chocolate drink), granma (a tea made of a local grass) or chicha (a fermented corn beverage).

Inside the kiosk’s tiny kitchen, Gomez Torres shared his recipe and the story of the dish. The hearty meal started as a street food in the early 20th century and was named for its invigorating, stick-to-your ribs properties, he says. The combination of soft, starchy yucca; salty, rough pork cracklings; and tangy, cool slaw made with cabbage, onions, tomato, mimbre fruit (also known as cucumber tree or mimbro), chile and vinegar offers a distinct interplay of textures and flavors. And it caught on quickly. Soon, vigorón was sold all over the city and the country, according to Gomez.

The Salt brings you more here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s