Chifrijo Jones is my pen name. I’m a US-born entrepreneur and writer who first visited Costa Rica in 2010 for language immersion school. It was such a great experience that I kept returning, exploring different parts of the country, and making friends wherever I went.
I chose this pen name because it represents the fusion of something distinctly Tico, chifrijo, and something very Anglo, the common English surname, Jones. It’s also a double-entendre, that means a strong desire to eat chifrijo–as in, “I’m jonesing for some chifrijo, man!”
What is Chifrijo?
The word chifrijo is a portmanteau made from the words chicharron (fried pork belly) and frijoles (beans). Some sources also claim that the chi portion of the word also refers to chimichurri.
As the name suggests, the key components of the dish are crispy fried pork belly, beans, white rice, pico de gallo or chimichurri, avocado, and a few tortilla chips on the side. Some people like to spice it with the unofficial Costa Rican national condiment, Salsa Lizano. If you like medium heat or high heat, then you can add a little chili panameño or jalapeno.
I’ve eaten many varieties of the dish in many different places. Most of the places have used red beans or kidney beans. Occasionally, I’ve had a black bean version. Both versions are good.
For me, what makes chifrijo so good is the mixture of flavors and consistencies of the ingredients. The chicharron should be salty and fried so that it is crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. The beans should be tender. I prefer it with a little avocado on top.
What is the Origin of Chifrijo?
Unlike other quintessential tico dishes such as gallo pinto, chifrijo has only been popular since the 90s. It was purportedly invented by either the cook or owner at Restaurante y Bar Cordero’s, which is located near Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in the Tibas canton of San José.
According to the official story, the bar’s owner, a hungry Miguel Cordero, walked into the kitchen at his restaurant and threw together a plate of food comprised of what was already available, including the chicharron, rice, and beans. He liked it. So he added it to the menu.
In 2014, Cordero sued 49 other restaurants in Costa Rica for using the term chifrijo. At that time, many of the other restaurants began calling it by other euphemistic names, such as Innombrable (the unnameable). Cordero’s attorney stated that the action against the other restaurants wasn’t motivated by money but rather by protecting the copyright of the name “chifrijo.”
If you ever find yourself attending a soccer game at Saprissa Stadium, Cordero’s is a great place to grab a couple of beers and a cup of chifrijo before the game.
I first had chifrijo in 2010 at a restaurant called Nacho’s in downtown Heredia. I was doing a Spanish immersion at a school just a few blocks away. Not only was Nacho’s a great place to get a plate of chifrijo and some beers, I also learned some interesting Spanish vocabulary from the regulars at the bar.
Unfortunately, Nacho’s was demolished to make way for a parking lot. It moved a few kilometers north to Barva de Heredia and they eventually closed all together. Some great memories remain.