Before I moved to Costa Rica, I did not think I would add Toucan Soup to my recipe book. My Bribri friends in Talamanca have taught me otherwise. I’ve learned that toucan meat can be prepared in a number or forms, from fried to smoked, much like chicken or turkey; here, I share a recipe that is a favorite among my Bribri friends called Wacho, or, as I’ve translated it, Toucan Soup. Pig or chicken meat is now commonly substituted in this soup, but you’ll still find people who treasure this heirloom recipe.
Recipe for Urrék (Toucan in Bribri)
Pluck and fillet the Toucan as you would any wild foul or chicken (boiling the bird may help remove feathers)
Fry the pieces of meat in a large pot with onion, garlic, wild cilantro and peppers, and salt (root vegetables can be added at this step, such as yucca)
Add water and bring to a boil; keep on the fire until the meat is cooked
Once the meat is cooked, stir in white rice
Finish cooking your soup until rice is tender and serve hot
Learning about toucan as a food left me with a few lingering questions: What other wild birds are important foods? Why are these foods important to people who eat them? And, what do they taste like? I hope to learn more about these wild delicacies as my time passes in Talamanca. I often reflect on how fortunate I am to participate in indigenous family traditions that have been practiced for hundreds of years. At the same time, I’m sorry I didn’t spent more time asking my grandparents to show me how to fillet a chancellor chicken or stuff a moose heart.
If you are intrigued to learn a few more heirloom recipes, check out a favorite book of mine called Renewing America’s Food Traditions. Reading these recipes will be even more rewarding if you can find someone who knows how to prepare them.
Listen to toucans I recorded while visiting a friends' farm in Costa Rica: