Saturday, 9 February 2013

Chayote con Maiz (Costa Rican Chokos and Corn)

When I started researching Costa Rican food to make this month, I quickly realised that there are a LOT of essential Costa Rican ingredients that I just can't get my hands on. I started to compile a list of the ingredients that I kept finding in recipes again and again and again. I wish I could have bought and tried all these, but I guess I'll just have to wait until I can finally travel to Costa Rica.

Things I Can't Get Near Me: 
Plantains (sob!)
Achiote (paste)


I also kept finding recipes online which called for chayote. Not knowing what a chayote was, I put it down on the list and discarded all the recipes. Then, in a stroke of genius which rarely occurs - I thought I might just google chayote to see what it was. To my surprise I discovered that I was actually familiar with it - I just know it by a different name: Choko. You know, these fellas:

I've eaten choko since I was a kid and I've always really liked it, although I know that not everybody is as keen! Infact I've heard rumours that McDonald's Apple Pies used to (or still do?) contain quite a lot of choko because the flesh holds it's shape well, has a mild taste and looks pretty similar to apple when cooked. I don't know if that is true, but it sounds pretty plausible to me.

It turns out that chokoes go by many different names. You might also have heard them called Christophenes. In fact according to wikipedia (get your grain of salt ready) it's also known as:
  • cho-cho
  • mirliton/merleton
  • vegetable pear
  • pear squash
  • chuchu (in Brazil)
  • Centinarja (in Malta)
  • chouchoute
  • pipinola
You certainly learn something every day! So, once I realised that chayotes were actually chokoes and that I could get my hands on them, chayote was back on the menu! I started searching around for a good choko recipe from Costa Rica and ended up being emailed one by an awesome Costa Rican named Kimberly who out of the goodness of her heart took the time to type it all up for a complete stranger. Sometimes the internet reminds you that the world is a wonderful place (even though a lot of the time it reminds you that the world is full of horrible and cruel people).

I changed the recipe very little from the one she sent me. At first glance it looks too simple to be interesting but all I can tell you is that this dish is special. It's so creamy and flavourful that it's impossibly just to eat a little bit, I find myself going back for more and more. Next time I buy chokoes I am definitely going to be making this again with them! Serve with corn tortillas (like everything else in Costa Rica) and chopped coriander to garnish.

3 med-large chokoes (chayotes)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Salt and cracked black pepper
1 tin sweet corn kernels, drained (you can also use 1 cup frozen corn, or 1 cob fresh corn)
1/4 cup rice milk
1 tbsp sugar

To Make
1. Peel the choko and chop into cubes (NOTE: it is a good idea to use gloves when peeling and cutting choko, as it's juices irritate the skin and leave you with a very unpleasant dry and tight feeling on your hands).
2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onions and garlic, sauté until soft.
3. Add the chopped choko, cumin, corainder, salt and pepper and cover with a lid. Cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes.
4. Add the corn, rice milk and sugar. Cook, uncovered, until the choko is cooked (it should be tender to pierce but still firm enough to hold it's shape) and the milk has cooked down by about half. Stir well and serve.

Serves 4 with tortillas (and any other accompaniments).


  1. Such an interesting post. I don't think I've tasted choko before so will have to try soon. Can you include it in a stir fry? All the information about Cost Rica is so interesting Keely. It's not a country we hear alot about. I & children love anything wrapped in a tortilla. I'm just about settled in after my holiday to Bali so will email you soon about doing something together. Catherine :)

    1. Not a traditional addition to a stir fry Catherine, but I think it would go very well because it holds it's form well. It's also great for curry and soup for the same reason. Your Bali holiday looked fantastic, looking forward to hearing more about some of the places you went to!

  2. I remember choko's growing over our outdoor toilet when I was a girl. My mother thought that they were amazing but we wouldn't eat them ;). She fed them to us in preserves (we couldn't figure out what they were that way ;) ). Cheers for a good recipe that I might just try with my adult tastebuds...if I don't like it, I can puree it and call it chutney! ;)

    1. Yes I think a lot of Aussie kids grew up disliking choko because they just got fed it plain steamed or boiled (I think that is the problem with a lot of vegies though!). But choko cooked with butter/nuttelex or milk is so creamy and just melts in your mouth. I guarantee that if you cook this dish you'll love the choko :) Let me know how you go with it!