If you’re like me and have spent many days in misery over your aching stomach, then the main question when you travel is: “what can I eat there?”
The goal, of course, is not to get sick.
For me, lactose and excess fructose are a problem. I also have to watch certain spices and any weirdness in water. In short, I’m very sensitive to anything out of the ordinary.
So, the safety of Panamanian food was naturally a concern for me when we visited.
We was pleasantly surprised.
First and foremost, Panama is not plagued by water problems like Mexico and some other Latin American countries. So, there is no need to constantly watch how things are washed, prepared, or served. I usually take certain precautions when I travel, like avoid brushing my teeth with tap water or drinking locally prepared drinks, and even local ice in some cases. But there was no need for any of this in Panama.
We drank locally made iced tea everywhere – which was to die-for, by the way. We consumed ice and even brushed our teeth with local water - I had no problems. By the way, I have been looking for the recipe for the Panamanian iced tea since we got back, because it’s truly amazing. It’s like a sweet tea with tons of lemon and maybe oranges..? I don’t know but if you have the recipe, could you please post it in the comments? I’d love to have it!
As far as the food goes, I really liked that Panamanian food was not dairy-heavy. In fact, most local dishes we saw did not contain milk, cheese, or cream. This was always a big problem I have had to deal with as many international cuisines contain hidden dairy. Lucky for me, Panamanian food did not have this issue.
We ate a lot of seafood and I have to say that seafood was excellent there – dah! It was readily available and it was inexpensive. We often ate the morning catch for lunch or dinner – yum! Our favorites were the Fish House in Boquete and Mi Ranchito Restaurant in Panama City, Causeway area. We loved Panamanian ceviche!
We’ve read a lot about beef in Panama and how it is not the greatest because the cattle is allowed to roam the country side and tends to be more muscular, i.e. tougher to eat. But after a while of eating seafood, we finally had to have something else. So, we tried the beef and holy cow was it good! I’m not even kidding. I had an amazing hamburger, it was half beef and half chorizo sausage – wow!
One of the best filet steaks I’ve ever had was in Bocas Town in Panama. It was at a little gem of a restaurant called The Bocas Wine Bar. Fantastic! We only ordered beef because they were out of fish. And since they had two choices of entries: fish or beef, we went with the filet steak. It was truly delicious and I would highly recommend it. You can read my review on TripAdvisor here.
Of course, we also tried pork. And it was also excellent. We had very simple grilled pork chops and they were yummy. We only ate a little chicken because it’s what we usually have at home, so it seemed boring to have it on vacation.
Overall, we had no complaints about the Panamanian food. We ate at both local and tourist restaurants.
The local restaurants reminded us of the Costa Rican Sodas. They were small, sometimes buffet style, but usually little diners with daily menu written on a board. Average lunch was super cheap and super good – $4/per person can’t be beat!
Lastly, I want to say that we went grocery shopping a few times as well, and were surprised at the availability of IBS friendly foods, such as non-dairy milk and gluten-free products. One place that really surprised us was Bocas Town. It had this great little gourmet grocery store that had everything we could ever want.
All in all, Panamanian food seemed very IBS friendly to us.
I didn’t get sick a single time, so that’s the biggest testament of all.