Pricey Roots: A Panama chef uses rainforest ingredients to transform fine dining
The Panama rainforest is a source of a wide diversity of plants, for many years collected and eaten by indigenous people. Should we include them in our diets? Chef Mario Castrellón thinks so, so he decided to include rainforest ingredients in Maito, his fine dining restaurant in Panama City.
The idea was a success, and now his customers can enjoy kalalu, a tropical fern with an earthy flavour, blanched like an asparagus, and brushed with olive oil and grilled. Or boda, a palm flower that looks and tastes like baby corn, pickled and wrapped in banana leaf tamale-style, reports The Guardian.
While Panama City’s most popular restaurants were serving Italian pastas and Peruvian ceviches, Castrellón has been exploring the Panamá biodiversity. Thanks to his innovative idea, Maito became the first Panamanian restaurant to enter the prestigious Latin America’s 50 best restaurant list.
Castrellón’s mission has become the spark for a “rainforest to table” movement across Latin America, exploring how the forest’s myriad ingredients can be sourced sustainably and benefit the indigenous communities.
“The indigenous people are always left behind or looked down upon,” says Castrellón. “From my point of view they are the real owners of this country. They have survived here without using up all of the natural resources. I just want to help empower them so they can live better lives.”
As reported in The Guardian.