Pura Vida: This Is Living (Maui Now) May10


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Pura Vida: This Is Living (Maui Now)

Gallo PintoIf you’ve ever been to Costa Rica, you know the expression “pura vida” – literally translated as “pure life” – is used extensively as a greeting, farewell, toast, adjective meant to communicate a laid-back lifestyle and even a synonym for “excellent.”

But why?

According to Wikipedia, “Pura vida is a characteristic Costa Rican and Puerto Rican phrase. It literally means pure life, however, the real meaning is closer to “plenty of life”, “full of life”, “this is living!”, “going great”, or “real living”.

“According to a researcher from the University of Costa Rica, Víctor Manuel Sánchez Corrales, the origin of the phrase is Mexican.. It is thought to have come from a Mexican film called ¡Pura vida! (1956), in which the protagonist used the expression extensively in situations where it would not normally be used.”

Similar to the concise, multifaceted phrase, Pura Vida food truck is a small, singular venture with a lot more going on than you might realize.You learn something new every day.

Currently located next to Hitter’s Paradise, which is next to Tesoro on the Pi’ilani Highway in Kihei, the truck serves up a wide array of authentic Costa Rican cuisine.

We started with one of the workhorses of the Tico food culture, Gallo Pinto or Spotted Rooster ($3.50).

Defined as “Costa Rican fried rice” by Pura Vida, gallo pinto is essentially black beans and rice fried up with a little onion and bell peppers. It’s solid, stick-to-your-ribs food.
The ubiquitous tamarind-based sauce is sweet, tangy, smoky and is all over the place for a reason: it elevates ordinary food to something truly noteworthy.There’s a bottle of Salsa Lizano on every table in Costa Rica.

Pura Vida provides you with a tiny plastic ramekin of (homemade?) Lizano: slather some on, and those humble beans and rice become something quite special.

Speaking of itty bitty teensy weensy plastic ramekins, the Platanitos and Guacamole ($4.50) border on unshareable.

This is in part because the 30 hot, crisp, freshly fried plantain chips are addictive, but also because there is roughly an ounce – think sample size at Costco – of the fresh guacamole.

We’d love to see an option to super-size this (or maybe just a slightly less miniature portion to start).Don’t go planning on sharing this amongst a bunch of friends, unless they’re imaginary.

In stark contrast, the Fish Tacos ($10.50) come in a portion size bordering on obscene.

Described as ‘blackened mahi mahi,’ the fish has a spicy seasoning but was not blackened in any literal or Cajun sense of the preparation…which was fine by us.

A generous quantity is grilled and then accompanied by three corn tortillas; a tropical slaw that seemed to be made with carrots, cabbage, jicama and pear slices; and a sweet, creamy and delectable mango sauce.

The Bean and Cheese Empanadas ($6.50) are a rich, filling vegetarian option.All together, anticipate a bite that’s fresh, light, unusual and craveable.  ¡Pura vida!

Stuffed with mashed black beans and fresh cotija cheese, the turnovers are golden fried and, as a result, rather greasy.

They are accompanied by finely shredded cabbage dressed in mayo and ketchup and topped with some fresh tomato, which tastes about how it sounds.

The friendly chef and owner hails from Costa Rica.

He takes your order and soon thereafter, the sound of grilling and frying commences. He’s often a one-man show, so food can take quite a while when the truck gets busy. If you’re starving, this time will no doubt pass at a  rate three times slower than watching grass grow.

Two crisply fried tortillas are piled high with goodies.For all of the unique and well-prepared offerings, our favorite by far is the Butternut Squash and Chorizo Chalupas ($10.50).

A black bean layer is spread down first. This is topped with a mix of sweet squash and spicy sausage and then again with lettuce, pico de gallo and cotija cheese.

There are layers upon layers of flavor and every bite is unique.

The sweet squash imparts a firm texture and a faint cinnamon flavor, which are in turn offset by the other savory, crisp and fresh components.

Regardless, the next time you’re in the mood for something filling yet fresh or South-of-the-Border-esque yet unique, head for the Pi’ilani Highway.In short, it’s utterly, ineffably fantastic and we hope some day there’s a vegetarian version so everyone can get in on this wonder.

Hit some balls and show Pura Vida some amor.