Tag Archives: food

Exploring Panama City: The Panama City Fish Market

One of the most interesting but easy-to-overlook spots in Panama City is the fish market. If you’re on the sidewalk and feel a desire for a plate of shrimp or fresh fish, wave down a taxi and tell him to take you to Mercado de Mariscos. The market itself is right at the northeastern point of Casco Viejo, a five minute walk away from the city’s oldest neighborhood.

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The market is divided into a few parts. The main building is dominated by the first-floor fish market, which sells seafood of all sorts. Panama City locals come here to get their fish and take home to cook themselves.

You can’t very well fry fish in a hotel room, so I went to the second-floor restaurant and got this grilled lobster plate instead. The restaurant has plenty of other dishes to offer. The best deal is probably a basic grilled fish plate, though. Strangely, they didn’t have crab on the menu, even though they seemed to have plenty of it being sold in the market.

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Above, the market.

There’s one more place to buy seafood at the fish market. If you walk outside the first-floor market, you’ll find a line of ceviche stands. I didn’t get a picture of this, but imagine a row of stands selling soupy seafood cocktails. There are well over a dozen of these stands, all with basically the same menu. You can get a basic cup of ceviche for $1.25 and a kind of shrimp cocktail thing for about two dollars, but bigger bowls are available. This is probably one of the best lunch deals in the city.

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Before leaving, you should walk out to the harbor. Fisherman sail out for their catch every day and bring it back here. The atmosphere at the city’s fish market is very business-like, both among the workers and the customers, but it’s an easy-going place at the same time and the workers are used to tourists.

Olive oil: A healthy alternative to a stick of butter

I’m not a good cook. The only meals I can make are either already prepared or something I can fry on the stove (eggs, for example.) Basically, I can make a mean breakfast, but lunch and dinner for me means sandwiches, frozen dinners or takeout.

Lately I’ve been trying to cook more for myself and change my eating habits. Instead of throwing great gobs of real butter on toast and using it to fry with, I’ve switched over to olive oil.

Olive oil is incredibly useful. It goes well on toast and other forms of bread. It makes a good mix with tuna. And it’s a great frying medium for eggs and other foods that you can fry in a pan. There’s a reason the Italians, Greeks and Arabs use so much of it: olive oil goes well with a lot of foods and it’s healthy. Nutritionists seem to be agreed that olive oil is good to eat, and thousands of years of Mediterranean cuisine can’t be wrong.

(Source: Paul Goyette, Creative Commons)

(Source: Paul Goyette, Creative Commons)

Pictured above: one of the most common uses of olive oil in Mediterranean cooking. Hummus has become surprisingly popular in the United States, but a lot of Americans don’t know that hummus is traditionally served with olive oil. A plate of hummus with olive oil and a loaf of pita bread make for a healthy and filling breakfast.

There are different grades of olive oil, but the best to use raw is extra virgin. It’s more expensive, and generally speaking, the darker/greener it is the better. The stuff I’ve got right now is extra virgin but is quite yellow – it’s a basic cheap bottle. I’m a student and can’t go all out on a 20 dollar import of the finest Spanish olive oil. I need that money for other things.

If you’re planning to use your olive oil just for frying with, though, don’t bother getting extra virgin – just buy a bottle of the low-end oil. Don’t waste the good stuff in a frying pan.

Oil and vinegar are all you need to make a simple and healthy salad dressing.  If you can eat that salad while sitting on a balcony overlooking a scenic valley, even better.  (Source: hitham alfalah, Creative Commons)

Oil and vinegar are all you need to make a simple and healthy salad dressing. If you can eat that salad while sitting on a balcony overlooking a scenic valley, even better. (Source: hitham alfalah, Creative Commons)

What makes olive oil healthy? This food is high in unsaturated fats, which have various benefits including a reduced risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol. A doctor from the Mayo Clinic endorses it here, though he notes that while olive oil has healthy fats, it is also high in those fats, so it should be used in moderation.

So if you want to have a healthier alternative to butter or a less crappy alternative to margarine or the various “spreads” in the fake dairy aisle of the market, try out some olive oil.