Caldosa Is The Frito Pie Alternative That's A Staple In Costa Rica

While ceviche is the national dish of Peru, that doesn't mean other oceanside countries can't enjoy their own unique versions of this fresh seafood specialty. What makes Costa Rican ceviche different from all the rest is the addition of bell peppers to the mix of fish, onions, and cilantro, sometimes topped with Tabasco or even ketchup. Oftentimes, the ceviche is so flavorful that it doesn't require any additional toppings, and you can eat it plain as you relax on the beach with a cold bottle of Imperial beer . Costa Ricans, also known as Ticos, have taken ceviche a step further, transforming it into a street food delicacy that's served in a bag of chips.

This inventive dish, called caldosa, is part entrée and part snack, combining scoops of freshly-made ceviche with toasted corn chips akin to Fritos. Caldosa translates to "brothy" and is typically eaten straight out of a bag of Costa Rica's popular barbecue chips, Picaritas. Morsels of lime-cooked fish, usually mahi-mahi, corvina, or sea bass, are mixed with the chips, infusing the seafood with the corn chips' salty-sweet goodness. Those who love a good crunch will enjoy caldosas right away, but you can wait for the chips to soak up all the juicy ceviche brine and drink up the crumbs.

Found on bar tapas menus, at local food stalls, and even sold out of car trunks, this trendy take on classic ceviche has gained widespread popularity throughout Costa Rica, and it all started with one hungry kid.

Caldosas originated in a small bar during the '90s

Tucked within the district of Palmares is a traditional bar and seafood eatery, called Fory Fay, that's been operated by the Pacheco family for decades. People flock here to get their hands on a bag of ceviche-filled Picaritas, sold by the thousands each week. This humble establishment holds the title of the birthplace of Costa Rican caldosas, and the story behind its inception is fondly remembered by its owner, Juan Miguel Pacheco.

The tale involves a young boy who walked into the restaurant in the mid-'90s to grab a bag of corn chips, but asked Pacheco if he could drizzle some ceviche juice (caldo) into the bag. He kept returning with friends to order the snack-slash-meal hybrid, and the rest is history. The owner launched his new culinary creation by finding a use for leftover caldo, and made a killing with his new business venture.

Some adventurous eaters say the barbecue-flavored chips elevate the taste of ceviche, while some prefer to stick with tradition and leave snacks out of the equation. Regardless, new food outlets and stands that sell caldosas are constantly popping up all over Costa Rica. The best part is that there are loads of different kinds of ceviche that will lend their unique textures and tastes to this dish each time you try it. If you've got your own simple ceviche recipe, grab some Fritos and see if you can recreate this playful dish.