The Amazon cuisine is highly recognized as one of the best choices around the world due to its wide variety of ingredients and aromas. This is the result of the influence of all the diverse cultures that have come to this place. The jungle, vibrant and exceptional, stands out in the Ecuadorian Amazon because it brings the locals a wide variety of options to prepare wonderful and exquisite dishes with exotic and unusual ingredients, such as: chonta worms, regional vegetables, bananas, cassava, and variety of fish among other animals.
One of the most nutritious and traditional dishes in the Ecuadorian jungle is the delicious Maito, which means ‘wrapped’ in Kichwa. This cooking technique is used with different types of meat and food that are put together in a banana or yaki leaf, also known as ‘bijao’. This is a typical procedure in various areas of the Amazon Rainforest. Locals claim that there is nothing better that eating food as natural as possible. For that reason, they usually wrap food in bijao and then put the preparation close to the fire to cook in its own juices.
Nowadays, the recipe has been modified according to the needs and disposition of the ingredients. Some of the possibilities for Maito are: beef, chicken, bocachico, tilapia, river fish, and recently, hearts of palm with chontacuros (chonta worms). Preparing the Maito only requires 3 simple steps: 1) Season the meat/chicken or fish with salt and pepper to taste (some locals also add little lemon juice), 2) then wrapped it in yaki-panga leaves and 3) place it on a wood grill to be steamed for approximately 15 minutes.
Once ready, the traditional options to complement this plate are: boiled / fried cassava or plantains. These are often served on the same leaf where the Maito was previously cooked. While the most common drinks are: chicha of yuca or chonta and guayusa, the last specifically represents a symbol of natural wealth among the Amazonian cultures.
The culinary offer in the Amazon is quite rich not only in scents, colors, flavors, or textures, but also in beliefs. Some gourmet experts say that Maito was a tribute food offered at wedding parties for celebration or among the tribe for honoring the men that came from hunting. Each dish is prepared with different customary techniques that satisfy the body and soul of those who try it.