American hot dogs are steeped in tradition, served at landmark restaurants and stands that have been doing it the same way for generations. But the frankfurter adapts easily to any cuisine, and lately, some of the wildest hot dogs have been coming out of Central and South America.
We've explored bacon-wrapped Mexican hot dogs in Los Angeles and Tucson, Arizona, as well as Chilean Completos and Colombian hot dogs piled with ham, bacon, and pineapple. But I knew nothing of Ecuador's awesome hot dog culture until a few weeks ago when I received an email from South American hot dog aficionado Remigio Torres, with photo after photo of some of the most delicious-looking hot dogs I've ever seen.
At first glance, Ecuador's dogs look similar to other Latin American variations, slathered in a thick layer of mayonnaise and ketchup. But the cooking method and unique flavors of the homemade sauces put Ecuador's dog in its own category.
The dogs are cooked in a water bath, or baño maria, that can contain anything from garlic, parsley, and onions to ketchup and mustard. Each cart or stand has their own recipe, pulling dogs out of the bubbling sauce as needed.
The vendor, referred to as the hotdoguero loads the hot dog onto a bun and passes it to the customer to garnish with a wide variety of sauces. Ketchup, mustard and mayo are standard, along with salsa verde and aji, an Ecuadorian hot sauce that's made with red chiles, onion, lime, cilantro and tamarillo (a slightly sweet, tangy fruit native to South America).
Crushed chips are available at some carts but definitely not the standard garnish like you see in Colombia and Brazil.
Mauro Vasquez's cart has been on the corner of Av Machala and Luis Uraneta for 10 years, a few blocks from the U.S. Consulate in Guayaquil. Hot dogs ($0.70) are cooked in a baño maria of ketchup, parsley, garlic, red onions and cabbage, and topped with aji and a salsa verde that's made with basil and more mayonnaise. Along with the dogs, they sell burgers and chuzos ($0.70), which are deep-fried sausage and plantain skewers.
A few blocks away, Giovanni Mendoza owns a permanent hot dog stand, one of many similar kiosks all over the city, sold to entrepreneurs by the municipal government. Here the dogs are cooked in a slurry of water, red onions, ketchup and mustard. Then the usual condiments, as well as a salsa verde made from pureed basil, milk, and Ecuadorian cheese (a semi soft, fresh cheese similar to Mexican queso fresco). Hot dogs, burgers and chuzos are all 60-cents a piece.
Most vendors in Guayaquil use Piggis or La Europea brand of all-beef dogs; others use the more expensive, pork and beef Plumrose dogs. In Ecuador, a hot dog sandwich is simply known as a hotdog or to a lesser extent, perro caliente, while the frankfurter itself is called a salchicha.
Stay tuned for more Ecuadorian hot dog adventures. In the meantime, if anybody has an idea where to find one of these in the United States (El Guayaquileño cart in Midtown Manhattan looks like a good start) free to chime in below!
Mauro Vasquez Hotdogs
Corner of Machala and Luis Urdaneta; Guayaquil, Ecuador (map) Open 4 to 11 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday
Giovanni Mendoza Hotdog Stand
Corner of Machala and Padre Solano; Guayaquil, Ecuador (map) Open 2 to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday
Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based illustrator who has a serious thing for hot dogs. Dig his dog drawings? Many of the illustrations he has created for Hot Dog of the Week are available for sale: hawkkrall.net/prints/.
Much thanks to Ecuadorian hot dog correspondent Remigio Torres for exhaustive research and fantastic photos.