The small beachfront fishing towns dotting the central coast of Ecuador typically boast a strong sense of community among the local families. Often if a friend or family member is in financial need, folks will work together to host fundraising events.
Bingo is one popular way that locals raise money for cause. Tickets are sold and prizes like canned goods are donated. Another common approach is by selling food.
Today we purchased a yummy meal called a “tonga” from one of our neighbors who is raising money for her sister who has a worsening neurological disability and can’t afford the doctor’s visits. We had placed our tonga order a few days ago and this morning a group of women worked together to prepare over a 50 of these and deliver them to different families in the neighborhood. We paid $3 per tonga.
“Tongas” are a dish native to the province of Manabi and consist of a hearty meal of rice, chicken (or other meat) and fried sweet plantains, all smothered in a tasty peanut sauce and garnished with cilantro.
The contents of the tonga are wrapped into a package using large banana leaves, creating a neat, portable lunch, traditionally carried by peasants working in fields far from home. Today, tongas are almost always featured in local traditional fiestas.
We were told the ladies plan to continue selling different traditional foods each Sunday over the next several weeks so stay tuned to discover other local Manabita dishes.