By Markku Sario
If you go up Luis Cordero to where it crosses Las Americas, the name of the street changes to Abelardo J. Andrade. One block further, there is a traffic light at a 5-way intersection. Take a hard right at the light onto Cumana. The road widens dramatically for half a block and then quickly narrows again. Just before it narrows, look to your right and see a big brightly-colored umbrella shading a food cart, usually in the middle of a small crowd of locals. There you will find Adrian Chicaiza, an industrious young man who has for two years been serving out some of the best seafood ceviches in town.
He hauls the food cart behind his motorcycle to the same spot every day by about 8:30 a.m. I mean every day. Sundays, New Years, Christmas, rain or shine, he’s there, staying until he runs out the early afternoon or late morning. Because he is at the widest part of the street, his customers are able to temporarily park their cars and trucks three or four deep in the street. I have seen as many as a dozen customers clustered around his cart. Several months ago, I took a taxi home from Supermaxi and gave the driver my address on Cumana. He said, “Oh yeah, that’s near the ceviche guy, isn’t it?” The guy is a major landmark.
I didn’t ask Adrian to disclose his recipe, but it is a very hearty and delicious blend of Corvina, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro, with Yuca as a thickener. He serves it in a generous plastic bowl, garnished with a squeeze of fresh lime and offers a picante sauce that will clean your sinuses out and singe nose hairs. Also a couple of scoops of popcorn. A very satisfying brunch, and for only $1.
My wife and I usually take it to-go, wend our way through the taxis, gravel trucks and high-end SUVs parked in the street and walk the few steps to our house to eat inside. There is no seating at the cart, and people sit on the curb or on the cracked sidewalk (this is, after all, Ecuador) with their backs to the wall. Or eat in their cars.
I like the ceviche just as it is, but my wife Jackie likes to pour it over rice or quinoa, sometimes adding a hard-boiled egg. Either way, it is tres bon. Did I mention that it’s only a buck?
At just $1 each, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better value for your money. Adrian speaks no English, but if you can count or hold up your fingers, he will give you something good to eat.
Being a neighborhood street vendor, I can’t say much about the ambiance of the establishment. Cumana is not a terribly busy street, so vehicle fumes are not really an issue. You might call the décor Unpretentious Early Suburban Chic with Motorcycle. Highly recommended!
Adrian’s cerviche cart: Address: Street in front of Cumana 1-90 y Abelardo J. Andrade, Phone: none; Seating: none; Credit cards: not accepted; Expense: cheap; Quality: excellent
Markku Sario, a retired attorney from Oregon, has resided with his wife Jackie in Cuenca for two years. He admits he has had no formal culinary training, but is a decent cook and claims over 70 years of actual eating experience.