Senior Researcher Meg Weaver offers another dispatch from her trip to steamy Costa Rica…
Before I left on my honeymoon, my pal asked me to bring her back a bottle of Lizano Sauce. “Sure,” I replied naively, “but what’s that?” In response, she launched rhapsodically about the condiment she savored during her time counting turtle hatchlings in Costa Rica back in 2001.
Seemed innocent enough. Little did I know Costa Rica’s Lizano Sauce has quite a following throughout the world. It’s a deep brown sauce made of water, salt, veggies, and some chemicals. It’s spicy but not hot; a little sweet but not overpowering. It was created in 1920 by the Lizano Company and is now produced and distributed by Knorr. It’s used to marinade meats, and tableside as a sauce.
It’s as ubiquitous as salt and pepper on any Costa Rican table. You can put in on your morning gallo pinto (literally, “spotted rooster”; a quintessentially simple Tico dish of rice and black beans), sprinkle it on some salty French fries instead of runny ketchup, or smother your arroz con pollo (“rice with chicken” and an assortment of tiny veggies) with its smooth flavor.
Lizano produces a variety of sauces under its brand name, including Hot Sauce and Chilero, but its “Salsa” is what the world craves. I’m not kidding: if you Google “Lizano Sauce,” more than ten pages of hits come up, most hoping to sell and ship it to you; other results are desperate pleas on message boards asking other addicts the best place to buy it.
While Costa Rica’s cuisine is an amalgam of Spanish, American, Caribbean, and South American cooking that’s not entirely distinct from other culinary traditions in the region, its Lizano Sauce helps it stand apart. It’s authentically Pura Vida!
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Is there an international condiment that you crave?
Photo: Lizano Sauce, by Son of Crowley via Flickr