Vegan Mofo 10: Panama / Panamanian Potato Salad

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We’re into the last week of Vegan Mofo, and I’ve got quite a few countries I want to cover this week!  My theme is ‘Places I’ve Been’ and I’m picking various countries I’ve been to and making a regional dish I either ate there or wished I’d eaten there.


Today’s post is about Panama.  Oh, Panama…I’m not really sure how I ended up going to Panama City.  It was a cheap flight from Costa Rica and I thought I might as well see another part of Central America while I was there.  Panama City ended up being my least favourite place I’ve ever travelled.  I’ve travelled to many cities by myself, but Panama was the only one where I felt unsafe.  Everywhere I turned there seemed to be people warning me against going anywhere on my own — “don’t walk down that road to the old part of town, you’ll end up in an area overrun with drug lords and get shot.”  “Don’t take a taxi downtown, the driver might assault you.”  So in the end I barely left my hostel for the few days I was there — I only went to the supermarket to buy food and came back to the hostel, which was in turn overrun by creepy middle-aged men who incessantly hit on me while I tried to check my emails in the common areas.  My final night there, we even heard gunshots   As a result, I had a strange experience of Panama City.  It was such a contrast to Costa Rica, where I stayed in a beautiful B&B in the mountains, and to Santiago, Chile, where I went after that (more on that in another post soon).

My main view was of the barbed wire around the compound:

Although I did at least make one friend! :)


Because I ended up cooking in the hostel each day, I didn’t get to experience Panamanian cuisine, sadly.  I mostly ate burritos!  However I recently came across this intriguing pink potato salad, which is apparently popular party fare in Panama, so I decided to veganise it and try it.  The pink is from the beetroot in it.  I ended up buying some vacuum-packed beetroot I found in Tesco — I’d never seen beetroot packed like that before (I think it may be common here though) and it turned out it was precooked.  Because I wasn’t cooking it with the potatoes and carrots (as directed in the recipe) I just added a bit of the juice from the vacuum pack to the salad to give it the pink colour.  It ended up being tasty, although not the most photogenic dish!

Ensalada de Papas / Panamanian Potato Salad

Makes 4 servings


  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 beetroot, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large handful parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Boil the diced potatoes.  When they are about halfway cooked, add the carrots and beetroot and cook until you can pierce them easily with a fork.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the parsley, celery, onion, garlic, mayonnaise and mustard.  Add the cooked potatoes, carrots and beetroot and mix everything together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


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6 thoughts on “Vegan Mofo 10: Panama / Panamanian Potato Salad”

  1. That’s such a shame – we were there for about a week, and we didn’t experience any badness (although there definitely were some ropey areas of the city, as you’d expect). I don’t remember much about the food though – we were backpacking, so a lot of what we ate was homemade too! I remember finding some Amy’s vegan burritos and soy milk and getting very excited!

    • I think perhaps the problem was I was staying in a ropey area. I just chose the wrong hostel! That’s great about Amy’s burritos being available there.

  2. look at that cute kitty! surely your little friend could come with you and claw anyone that got in your way? We all know little cats are lions on the inside!

  3. I’m really sorry you had that experience in Panama. As in any country there are some areas that are more dangerous but overall this city is safer than others in the region.
    If you ever decide to come to Panama and give it a second chance I’d love to maybe show you around, there are many vegan friendly options and very nice places as well where you can enjoy nature.

    • I greatly regret your experience. Sometimes people exagerate. Panama is like any other country in the world; it has its pros and cons. When you travel abroad you need to do your homework first. There is a lot of places in Panama city that you could have visited from museums and the Panama Canal but there is also amazing ones in the countryside. If you ever give Panama a second chance, talk to someone who is from the country or it has been there before. Personaly, when I travel abroad, I always purchase a book about that country such as the Lonely Planet. It will give you an overall idea of what to expect with highlights about the places that you should go.


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Caitlin Galer-Unti

Hi, I’m Caitlin and I’ve been vegan since 2008 and vegetarian my whole life. Since going vegan, I’ve lived in 4 countries and travelled to over 30! I’ve also published two bestselling vegan books (The Essential Vegan Travel Guide and The Barcelona Vegan Guide) and had my work featured in The New York Times, Vegetarian Food & Living and Vegan Life magazine. I’ve veganised my life and I’m here to help you design your life around your vegan values. 


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