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“Ferran Adrià said that Ecuadorian cuisine is truly taking its first steps here in this restaurant”

Nelsinhio, Casa Gangotena’s Cook One, has worked at the restaurant since it opened, six years ago.

I was born in Cuenca, but brought up in Quito, in Sangolquí. It’s a town in Valle de los Chillos and is famous for hornados.

Back then, Quito wasn’t as populated as it is now. Life was more relaxed. But with the growth of the city, life became more agitated. I’ve seen other changes here in the city, like in transport. Before there was no trolleybus, so it was really difficult to get about. But now it’s easier to get from north to south, and vice versa. It’s not exactly a European city but it has its virtues!

My mum used to cook at home. She’s from the coast, so there were lots of ceviches, soups, and plantain. Fish too. Here in Quito, cooking is much more focused on beans, sweet corn, and broad beans.

Casa Gangotena's team, Nelsinho.
Nelsinho has been part of Casa Gangotena’s team since day one.

Of the Casa Gangotena breakfasts, my favorite is tigrillo – a dish from the coast, like my mother!

Of the lunch menu, I really like the fish, the white encocado. The other dishes are great, of course, but this is the one for me. This isn’t the usual encocado, not like they make it in Esmeraldas with peppers and garlic. Here it’s a fried sauce of onion and garlic, with coconut milk. It’s accompanied by a yucca puree. The fish is cooked sous-vide, in a machine called a thermocirculator, at 68.5°C. It’s a perfect method that doesn’t dry out the fish or leave it raw.

It’s really important that Casa Gangotena is trying to rescue and promote Ecuadorian ingredients. The chef of the world-renowned Catalan restaurant El Bulli, Ferran Adrià, was here, and he pointed out that Ecuadorian cuisine is truly taking its first steps here in this restaurant.

We serve traditional dishes like fritada and empanadas, and use ingredients like lobsters from the Galapagos Islands. We have foods from all four regions, because from the Amazon we also have paiche, the fish, and from the Sierra we have the fritada, the goat stew (actually made from lamb!) – traditional dishes. It’s an ensemble of the whole of Ecuador.

I’m proud of the dishes we produce here because not all Ecuadorian chefs know how to make Ecuadorian cuisine. They might know something from their province, like those from Cuenca, might know how to make mote pillo (white corn and scrambled eggs) or people from Loja can make tamales and things like that, and Manabí knows their viches and corviches.  But here together, we all learn from each other.

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