Some words on Ecuadorian food and food safety. I'm the first to admit, I don't always practice the best food safety. I drink juice with ice in it, I eat street food, I taste unpasteurized curdled cow's milk. I also get sick, a lot. In my travels around the world, I've had parasites, and twice now I've had dysentery. I'm writing on this topic, because once again I'm chained to the toilet, and I suspect this is turning into my 3rd round with dysentery. Was it the campesino food? Was it brushing my teeth with mountain spring water? I'll never know.
Why, you might ask, do I take such chances? Why do I risk gastric distress over and over again? There are two reasons, really. One, is that I love food, I love trying new food, and I love eating like the locals. The other, is that sometimes communication fails, and I'm just too thirsty or hungry to be picky.
Moving on to a less disgusting note, I love Ecuadorian food. I love the motè, I love the churrasco, and most of all I love the aji. Aji litterally means hot pepper, but is also the name for a million varieties of hot pepper and fruit based sauces. The best aji is usually pink, thick with cilantro, onion, and mystery, and hot enough to make your lips numb. In some areas it's mostly tomato based. In other's I'm told the secret ingredient is the white pulp from fresh cacao. Occasionally, you'll get cheated and be offered Tabasco sauce in place of real aji, but any restaurant that's worth it's salt, from the fanciest place in Quito, to food vendors on the street or the bus, will have a good aji.