Ecuadorian Fanesca Soup

Freddy Macas, via Flickr

Special traditions are part of any holiday. Liz Waid and Joshua Leo look at one Easter tradition from Ecuador: making and eating fanesca soup.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Joshua Leo. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

It is Holy Week in Cuenca, a city in Ecuador. During this week, people prepare for the Christian holidays of Good Friday and Easter. Many people go to church. People who are very traditional even go to seven different churches in one day! People also prepare special food. They especially make fanesca. It is a tasty, thick soup, served in a round bowl. Today’s Spotlight is on fanesca.

Voice 2 

There are many good foods in Ecuador, but fanesca is a special holiday food. It represents many different traditions and symbols. Cooking and eating fanesca is often a family tradition. Jessi Franco is from Ecuador. He shared his thoughts on fanesca with Spotlight:

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“My mom used to prepare the fanesca, but now she is too old. My older sister also knows how to prepare it. It is expensive with all the ingredients and quantities. I hope my sister prepares the fanesca this year and invites me!”

Voice 1 

People in Ecuador only eat fanesca during Holy Week. Holy Week is the week before the Christian holiday of Easter. It is the most important holiday for many Christians. This celebration happens every year in March or April. Easter is a time when Christians remember Jesus’ death and resurrection.

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Jesus’ story comes from the Christian Bible. Jesus lived on earth more than 2,000 years ago. But the Christian Bible says that Jesus was not just a man. He was also God. He taught people about the love and peace of God. The authorities killed Jesus. But the Christian Bible teaches that, three days later, he rose again from the dead. In this way Jesus overcame sin and death.

Voice 1 

During Holy Week people remember the suffering that Jesus experienced when he was killed. Then at the end of this week, they celebrate his resurrection with the joyful holiday of Easter. It is a day of celebrating with traditional events and special food. People are full of happiness because they remember the new life that God gave them.

Voice 2 

Christians around the world have different traditions during Holy Week. Fanesca is one of these traditions. Fanesca is a kind of soup. It is made with many different foods. People use many different kinds of vegetables, such as sweet orange squash and corn. They also use many kinds of grains, like rice. And fanesca is famous for having many beans in it. These small seed-like foods are very healthy. Many kinds of beans grow in Ecuador.

Voice 1 

To cook fanesca, people must first cook all the vegetables, grains and beans. They prepare each of these one at time. They also prepare special fish called salt cod. Then, they mix everything together. They add milk to make the soup into a thick liquid. And at the end, people add the fish to the soup along with eggs and plantain bananas.

Marcelo Gudino is a Spotlight listener. He says:

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“The fanesca soup is one of my favourite dishes. In Ecuador it is an old tradition to eat this food. We join with the family and every one helps in some task. It takes a lot of work to make this soup. Finally all together we give thanks to God and enjoy it!”

Voice 2

Making fanesca takes a lot of work and preparation. But preparing fanesca can be a fun family event. All the members of a family will join together to help make the soup. Each person has a job. One person may help by taking the corn off of the corn cob. Another person may take the skin off of the potatoes. Others may cut vegetables or cook the food.

Voice 1

Layla Pujol has a website about Ecuadorian food. She now lives in the United States. But she says that preparing fanesca is a very important custom for her family. On her blog ‘Laylita’s Recipes’ she says:

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“As a child, I experienced all the local customs around Easter and helped prepare fanesca. Usually the children had the job of peeling all the fresh beans and grains. I try to do the same with my children now. I want to make sure that they understand the real meaning of this holiday. I want them to learn about the customs that I grew up with in Ecuador. I have found that food is a great way to teach children about traditions and customs, especially if you involve them in the preparation of the food.”

Voice 2 

After the hard work of preparing the soup, everyone enjoys eating it together. People think fanesca tastes great! But for some people it is also part of the spiritual preparations for the Easter holiday. For the 40 days before Easter, some Ecuadorians do not eat any meat except fish. They do this to remember the suffering of Jesus. So fanesca is made with fish as a part of the fast before Easter.

Voice 1 

Some people also say that the fish has a symbolic meaning - it is an ancient symbol for Christ. The fish stands for the name ‘Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour.’ Many people think that the grains and beans are also symbolic. Some people add exactly 12 different grains to their fanesca. Some Christians believe that these twelve grains represent the twelve disciples, or followers, of Jesus.

Voice 2 

Holy Week is also around the time that farmers harvest many crops. This may be another reason why people eat fanesca at this time. During harvest season poor people would gather many grains and beans. They made fanesca because it is a very filling and healthy soup. The thick soup would fill people’s stomachs until they felt full. The people would then give thanks to God for providing for them.

Voice 1 

These stories about fanesca are part of Ecuadorian tradition. In Ecuador, there are many traditions and cultures. They mix together, the same way fanesca is full of many different foods. Mixed together it tastes good and is very special. When people eat fanesca during Holy Week, they give thanks to God for all the many different but good things he gives us.

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To hear the story of Easter, listen to a special two part program on Spotlight next week. We will tell the story of Jesus, from the Christian Bible.

Voice 1 

The writers of this program were Rebekah Schipper and Rena Dam. The producer was Rena Dam. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘Ecuadorian Fanesca Soup’.

Voice 2 

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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What is your favorite holiday food?


Avatar Spotlight
said on April 07, 2014

Dear Spotlight Friends,

IĀ“m Ecuadorian and I feel very happy for this program because it can help people learn a little bit of the many beautiful traditions my country has.
I also enjoy learning about other countriesĀ“ customs through this website.


James's avatar
said on April 08, 2014

This kind of ecuadorian food is my favorite. Thank’s.

Avatar Spotlight
Jimmy Roberto Espinoza Mercado
said on April 09, 2014

It is great for us learning about the customs and traditions of the countries, such as the fanesca soup that is one of our tradition. Everyone enjoy it, though no one knows exactly its origin. We do not fanesca soup too often, we usually buy it. This is a very tasty dish, basically those are the ingredients, although in some places it has changed slightly, in other places of our country people eat it with “humitas.” Thank you very much!

Avatar Spotlight
said on March 20, 2016

Hi, everybody!
I’m Brasilian and I found this website searching for websites that could help me learn English.
I appreciate because I found it.
I liked very much Spotlight.
They teach us about English and also about other cultures and things around the world.
I hope to meet Ecuador a day, this country should be very interesting.

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 19, 2019

My favorite holiday (and daily) food is a barbecue, but, of course, I can not eat barbecue every single day. In Brazil, because of our racial formation, there are two or three traditional foods: barbecue and feijoada are amongst them. Barbecue comes from our European origins and is said that African slaves created the feijoada (a soup made whit black beans and different kinds of pork meat, like feet, ears, knees, tail, lips, and fat). Brazilian use to invite familiars and friends to eat together and then they play musical instruments and sing popular music.