Tracking down a Chile Relleno in Costa Rica can seem surprisingly akin to finding a needle in a haystack, despite the growing number of Mexican Restaurants cropping up around the country and the bounty of chile peppers that are native to the region. With a little hunting, however, superior Chile Rellenos are to be had, and the best of the bunch are found closest to the source of the main ingredients, in Puerto Viejo de Limon. While the Chile Relleno originated in the city of Puebla, Mexico, the chile pepper has roots in the Caribbean. Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502 when he landed on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, it was a captain on his second voyage to the country who brought it back to Europe, where it was admired and cultivated as a botanical curiosity in Spain, Italy, and most of the Mediterranean. But it wasn’t until a school of monks experimented in the kitchen to reveal the chile pepper’s intriguing culinary potential that it began to be consumed and coveted for its distinct flavor.
At the Lizard King Resort in Puerto Viejo de Limon, Chile Rellenos are on the menu year round, but this Spring the chef is getting creative with the season’s glut of robust red peppers, and has Chile Relleno afficionados chomping at the bit. By using red peppers instead of traditional green poblanos, these Chile Rellenos deliver a sweeter tang rather than the slightly bitter finish of a green poblano chile, the red pepper’s capsicum sister. One key ingredient that makes these Chile Rellenos worth a trip to Puerto Viejo is the chef’s signature special sauce that they’re served in, a smooth, made-from-scratch red salsa that is subtly piquant and just the slightest bit smokey from a dash of chipotle. Another is the soft, white queso fresco from Lecheria Las Lapas that they’re stuffed with. Organic and artisanal, this cheese is handmade in the Caribbean mountains of Costa Rica and delivered fresh to the Lizard King’s kitchen, where it clearly belongs. Once the peppers have been flash fried, carefully removed of their waxy skin and stuffed with cheese, they are ready to be dipped, simmered and cooked. Instead of traditional corn masa, Chef Ricardo uses a whipped egg batter, resulting in a slightly fluffy affair that encases the chile peppers and seems to draw out the essence of each ingredient.
The Lizard King Resort is located on Calle Principal, 50 meters south of Salsa Brava in Puerto Viejo. (506) 2750-0614