Sandra Scott Travels: Enjoy The National Soup of Panama

Chef Nicolas Prager

Last week I asked: What is sancocho?

The National soup of Panama.

Come and get it

One thing I have noticed is that every country I visit seems to have a national soup.

Two of my favorites are pho in Vietnam and caldo verde in Portugal.

Soups have to be one of the first recipes developed by a group of people.

All that was needed was water, a fire, a waterproof container, and some ingredients.

We humans have been making soup for at least 20,000 years.

hippopotamus soup

The earliest soup to be discovered by archeologist is hippopotamus soup dating back to 6000 BC.

The word “soup” comes from the French word “soupe” which means “broth” which was derived from other sources as the word hop scotched from one country to another.

When I was in Panama City, Panama, I attended a Panamanian Buffet and Folkloric Show at the InterContinental Hotel.

I noticed that the line was the longest to get the soup which was called sancocho.

Chef Nicolas Prager

I had used my InterContinental Hotel points to for my nine-day stay so I had no qualms about upgrading myself to Club Level for $20 a day.

Club Level is a private dining area with a great view and is used mainly by business people so it is quiet and includes the internet, breakfast, and evening libations with snacks.

I find eating alone in a crowded restaurant filled with family groups makes me feel alone and isolated.

The club is a perfect fit for me.

I asked the staff at the club about sancocho and was told the Chef Nicolas Prager, the Executive Sous Chef, would be happy to show me how to make it.

Folkloric Show at the InterContinental Hotel

Sancocho is common in all of Latin America but is best loved in Panama.

It can be enjoyed any time of the day and is considered the perfect hangover cure.

The Panamanian version originated the Azuero Peninsula south of Panama City.

It is claimed that one way to keep cool on super-hot days is by having a bowl of Sancocho for lunch.

I have been told that in other countries.

When it is 90-plus have a hot soup or a spicy hot dish.

If it makes you sweat you will cool off because the sweat will evaporate which is a cooling process.

Can’t prove it by me.


I loved sancocho in part because it was easy to make, but included one of my favorite flavors: cilantro.

I learned there is cilantro and culantro.

Culantro is common in Latin America.

It tastes and smells like cilantro but is said to be stronger.

Whereas cilantro looks a bit like parsley culantro is a slender flat leaf about four inches long.

They can be used interchangeably.

Chef Nicolas said, “Culantro is in the Panamanian DNA.”


This recipe is for basic sancocho but cooks have been known add vegetables such as yams, corn, and yucca.

Panamanian Sancocho

Cooking oil as needed

1 white onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, diced

3 leaves of cilantro, finely sliced (3 Tbsp cilantro)

1 tsp Oregano

Whole chicken (with bone) chopped in 2-inch piece

cilantro gives it a slightly green color

Salt and pepper to taste


In a large pot add vegetable oil, when hot sauté the onion and garlic.

Add salt and pepper.

Cook until the onion is transparent.

Add oregano and culantro.

Add chicken chunks sauté for 2 minutes to taste.

Add 1 quart and a half of water.

Cover the pot and let it boil.

Check occasionally to see if more water is needed.

The view

The cilantro should give it a slightly green color.

Skim off any solidified blood that may come from the chicken.

Serve hot with white rice.

Travel Trivia Tease™: Where can one cruise through the Continental Divide?

Look for the answer next week.

Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!