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Eating Fried Fish in El Chorrillo & Memories of Noriega, the Fallen General edit

Dsc06978_4 Last Friday I was seduced to visit "El Chorrillo," in nowadays a red zone area in Panama City where the ghetto rules. Thankfully that afternoon, all was in peace...no shootings around, or fights and the police trucks patrolled constantly. I can just imagine the OMG-look you might have right now, asking yourself what in this earth brought me to that part of the city? Forbidden land for me until last Friday, right? Well, the answer is "Fried Fish," called by many the-best-in-town!

Back to the infamous Military days of this country, when dictator Manuel A. Noriega controlled this land and its people, and many lives were lost, El Chorrillo was home to the Panamanian military headquarters. It was also home of thousands of the poor families who lived in "multifamiliares" or really large buildings. The night of the December 20th, 1989 when the US troops invaded Panama to get Noriega, that part of the City: El Chorrillo, was bombarded and thousands of people died.

Dsc06981 Those were days of anguish and despair, something that the younger Panamanian generations do not understand. That night (Dec. 20th 1989), and the following days, when Noriega was on the loose and the country was a total chaos, I remember that all the men in our neighborhood got together and guarded the streets and the houses of their families. They were armed with whatever they had on hand, because the news was out that the inmates of the jails were all released and they were killing, raping and robbing everywhere. My dad told me to help my mom dress up my little brother and my sister with jeans and snickers and to hide under the bed. I remember I was terrified, but I tried to be the big sister, so I cried in silence.

Dsc06971_2 A few days later, when the US troops took over the country and the new president, Guillermo Endara was installed, we came to the city in a bus and I remember we drove by El Chorrillo, it looked isolated and still burning. Burned body parts were left and right, I was stupefied. Now, almost 18 years later it was the first time I actually walked in that land. I couldn't avoid thinking of the torrid past of my country in that area while eating the tasty fish. Although I didn't say a word on the subject while we were eating (I didn't want to be a party pooper!); now I can talk about it.

With Noriega's faith decided last month, there was approved his extradition to France to face money laundering charges, when his long Florida prison sentence for drug smuggling ends this month.

Now, back to the Fried Fish, I've got to tell you it was good, BUT not the best I have tried. The very best I have tried has been always in Elvy's Kitchen Restaurant in San Pedro Island, Ambergris Key in Belize. I can tell you I can go to San Pedro just to eat that scrumtious specimen....YUM!

I leave you here with one of my delicious recipes to prepare: Crispy Fried Whole Fish (Pescado Frito Entero) EN/ES   

Have a delicious, safe week!


chef panama cookingdiva noriega politics
  • by Chef Melissa
  • September 16, 2007
  • 10:45 pm


Picture of nika nika said on...
09.17.07 at 08:02 AM |

Oh, your story made me cry!  I am so happy that you and your family came out intact and to go on to do such great things grin *hugs*

Picture of Kelly Kelly said on...
09.17.07 at 08:05 AM |

You are right.  I had to reread part of this post twice to make sure if you really said that you went to eat in El Chorrillo! It can be quite rough there.  It is funny because I know people say the same thing about Panama Viejo too.  I feel totally at home and safe in Panama Viejo though and don’t even like to stop, in a locked car,  at a light in El Chorrillo!  I guess that it is a matter of perspective though.  The food would be tempting too…

Have a wonderful week.

Picture of melissa melissa said on...
09.17.07 at 01:32 PM |

Gracias Nika! Un abrazo para ti tambien!

Kelly, I know what you mean, but Panama Viejo is fine compared to El Chorrillo smile Have a wonderful week you too!

Picture of Lydia Lydia said on...
09.17.07 at 07:56 PM |

I cannot imagine how it would feel to experience that level of violence and horror in my own city, and then to revisit so many years later and still to have those memories. I think it takes a great deal of courage to return and to keep a positive spirit about what might be rebuilt from the ashes. Thanks for a beautiful post.

Picture of dogj .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
09.18.07 at 01:22 PM |

esa niña si esta bonita… I remember that I was seven… Did you dressed me that day?? haha
I only remember me under the bed of a cousin… too scared

Picture of melissa melissa said on...
09.18.07 at 01:48 PM |

Lol @DogJ!!!I was not going to mention it, BUT now that you bring it up…Don’t you remember that first night you were wearing a red and a blue shoe…it was when they decided that you needed some help!!!
P.S.We were at home that night…

Picture of Garrison Gunter Garrison Gunter said on...
03.18.08 at 11:14 AM |

Great article on the fish vendor in Chorrillo!  I was always afriad to eat the fish in Chorrillo because of shellfish cross contamination but the fish stand at the end of central is definitely a highly recommended place and during the day it’s relatively safe.  Did you know that the “Chicken Lady” in Casco Viejo (not Panama Viejo) may be shutting down?  I really love her food and the few times I’ve spent in Panama- I make sure she’s on the itinerary!

I’ve got lots of wonderful photos of Chorrillo on my site and my flickr account.  I just returned from PC yesterday and will be updating my images in the next few weeks.
-Garrison Gunter

Picture of Bart Johnson Bart Johnson said on...
07.10.10 at 04:57 PM |

For our reading class we have to make a food for the theme of our book. My theme is adventure. So what food can I make for adventure thats not to hard and expensive?

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