After several wonderful days of discovery in the colonial city of Leon and its dramatic surroundings, we headed south to Managua. We stopped en route at La Paz Centro, some fifty kilometres to the southeast of Leon, to enjoy a local snack. The venue was a roadside cafe, Quesillos Guiliguiste, reputed to be the best in the country for quesillos. I guess it would be to equivalent our ‘family run' snack bars famous for home-made Cornish patties, or perhaps a ‘Pie and Eel shop'.
Our guide Guillermo has been a customer since his early school days and was known by everyone in Quesillos Guiliguiste. This family run establishment has been operating for over 30 years. Several tables and chairs were dotted around the forecourt, where a handful of locals were sitting chatting and enjoying the house specialities – quesillos. These hot corn tortillas, made on the premises, are stuffed with mild white cheese (similar to mozzarella), onions, then topped with fresh runny cream and placed in a plastic cone, to catch any liquid that may escape.
This traditional Nicaraguan speciality is delicious and as expected from these ingredients, very high in calories - it would be an understatement to describe quesillos as rich! The quesillo is accompanied by a local drink. One we were offered was tishe an indigenous grainy drink, the other was cocoa; both served in a gourd cup. I tried the cocoa, it looked more appetising! The raw cocoa is ground to and mixed with milk, rice cinnamon, vanilla and sugar.
We were treated as guests and taken behind the scenes to meet family members and workers alike. It was so interesting to witness the hard work and effort that goes into making these legendary snacks. It was also a fascinating experience see rural life in Nicaragua, and a great pit stop in an area where traditional skills come to the fore.
Whilst passing through the region, it is worthwhile stopping for a quick tour of a brick and tile factory, also conveniently located roadside. They are generally small and open to tourists. The workers here are so proud of the centuries old methods required, to create the beautiful clay tiles that adorn the old colonial buildings in Leon, both on their roofs and on their floors.
Nicaragua is full of wonderful surprises wherever you go – to be continued…