Mixing it up in Panama

Panama was already a prime example of cultural fusion well before 1914, when its famous canal became the link between East and West. This isthmus nation has been featuring elements inspired by the Spanish, Africans, Native Americans, and Europeans for centuries—which means it has had plenty of time to find the perfect blend of cultural elements.

Grand Circle Cruise Line is excited to offer our travelers the unique opportunity to experience this nation—and the canal—in 2013, with the introduction of our new Small Ship CruiseTour, Panama Canal Cruise & Panama: A Continent Divided, Oceans United. In honor of this chance to soak in the culture of Panama, we thought it would be fitting to whet our whistles—so to speak—with some traditional Panamanian cuisine. And when we asked Yesenia Yepez, a Grand Circle Cruise Line Program Director in Panama, to share with us the perfect dish to enjoy a taste of her native country, she gave us the perfect suggestion.


Roughly translated to “mix,” guacho is a rich and hearty dish with plenty of ingredients and a healthy dose of spice—a fitting representation of a nation that has been blending different ingredients together for centuries. With beans, meat, rice, and vegetables, this is a substantial dish that will fill bellies. As a note: This recipe also features pig tail, a staple in Panamanian cuisine. Those with adventurous palates will be richly rewarded if they include pig tail in their cooking—it is actually one of the most tender cuts of meat you can find on a pig, with a smooth texture that evokes comparisons to pork belly and other succulent cuts. However, do know that you can substitute with your favorite pork cut—or even with chicken, if you’re interested in a significant (but still delicious) variation on the dish (just skip over step 2).


1 lb. black beans
2 lbs. pig tail
3 onions, diced
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 coriander leaves, chopped
1 tsp. paprika
2 tablets chicken boullion
2 Tbs. soy sauce (referred to as China Salsa in Panama)
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 lb. rice
2 Tbs. oil
2 tomatoes, diced
1 can tomato sauce


  1. Put beans in pot of water, cooking on high until soft.
  2. Place pig tail in separate pot of water to remove salt, draining and replacing water several times.
  3. Add pig tail to beans, with 2 diced onions, bell pepper, garlic, coriander, paprika, chicken boullion, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, cooking for 30 minutes.
  4. Add rice, adding water if necessary to cover mixture, cooking covered over low heat for 30 minutes.
  5. In a frying pan, add oil, remaining onion, and tomatoes, cooking until tender, before adding tomato sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Plate bean and meat mixture, then serve tomato sauce over the top.

Servings: 4-6