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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 12
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A simple recipe can give a big lift to passers-by in the downtown
By Conor Golden
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Street vendors are a hit or miss when it comes to their wares, and with food it becomes an even bigger success or failure depending on what you get.

Joaquín Jiménez, lifelong resident of San José, has been selling his street treats for about 40 years. With a smile and a wink, he said it is because he likes to talk to people, whether foreigner or Costa Rican. One can find him out every morning and afternoon from Monday thru Friday selling his snack for 500 colons a square. That snack is a Costa Rican comida típica, or common food, called cajetas de coco.

Cajetas are sold in many different forms, but with the same core ingredients. These treats can be found throughout Central America, but are very common in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The recipe for traditional cajetas de coco is simple.

Other recipes may add butter and other ingredients to turn it into something more closely resembling a brownie or fudge, but Jiménez insisted that his own recipe only calls for the three core ingredients. “Water, sugar, and coconut,” he said. He uses raw, brown sugar, called tapa de dulce.

Jiménez elaborated on those instructions to say that the cajetas should be laid out on the table to cool off and harden before being cut into the square treat he sells on the streets. Jiménez said that his total cooking effort lasts around four hours. 

The basic result is raw coconut with some sugar thrown in to sweeten it. The taste is like the filling for a Mounds or Almond Joy candy bar, but it looks more like some cereal taken out of the breakfast bowl and molded into a square. The texture is a little rougher than the candy bar filling, and one can discern the brown sugar from factory-produced sweeteners.

Jiménez claims to sell out every day to around 80-100 people. He gets regulars because of his location. One can find his set-up across from the bus stop along Avenida 3 above Parque de España between the Registro Civil and Calle 9 in downtown San José.

He has been at the same spot for five years, by his own

candy seller
A.M. Costa Rica/Conor Golden
Joaquín Jiménez expresses his optimism with a friend.

estimate. He does this intentionally, he said, to get a lot of business from pedestrians and commuters walking along the streets. He even gets customers in cars honking their horns as they pull off to the side. Usually when people head home during afternoon rush hour, so is Jiménez albeit with a folded table, a lot more coins and a lot fewer cajetas.


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