I received my marching orders for the Panamanian Day Parade in time to beat the band of revelers. The colorful annual procession in Crown Heights stretches along Franklin Avenue north of Eastern Parkway, but I, typically, was drawn to the food vendors clustered south of it along Classon Avenue – a sensible arrangement given the size of the jubilant throng lining the parade route.
Amid the dishes you might expect – pernil, fried fish, oxtail, arroz con pollo, stew chicken, curry chicken, BBQ chicken (you get the idea), and numerous variations on plantains and empanadas – there were a number of Panamanian specialties that caught my eye (as well as my appetite). Pictured below are cow foot soup, bofe, and chicheme. (Click to enlarge.)
Cow foot soup is a thick, comforting dish with chunks of corn, potatoes, and assorted other vegetables and herbs that was absolutely delicious. (Don’t let the “cow foot” part put you off. Soup begins with water and bones, right?) It can be found throughout the Caribbean.
On the other hand (foot?) I’ve only found bofe (rhymes with snowday) on Panamanian menus and recipes for it on the web are scarce. Bofe is beef lung. I think the idea of it may be more daunting than the taste itself, which is milder than most offal. There were several renditions of it at the festival, but all were served with fried bread called hojaldre (from the Spanish word hoja meaning leaf) which, in my opinion, is the perfect accompaniment.
Wash it down with chicheme, a creamy, sweet, corn-based beverage enhanced with evaporated or sweetened condensed milk. Redolent of cinnamon and vanilla, it’s served hot and is vaguely reminiscent of Mexican atole.
The Panamanian Day Parade is always held on the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend. If you’ve never tasted Panamanian fare, jump on the bandwagon to next year’s festivities!