As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

Bolivian Foods: A Recap

Wowzers! Has it really been that long since I’ve blogged?? Over a month! Well, in case you didn’t know, I took a 2.5 week trip to Bolivia to visit my friends and godson, Jesus. (I served in the Peace Corps there from 2005-2007.) The trip was fantastic! Jesus is now 13 but he is still the same person I met when he was 7–very studious, eager to learn, polite and an all around great kid–I have such high hopes for him! Luckily we did not get stuck in any bloqueos or mudslides. In fact, everything went incredibly smoothly for Bolivia.  (Ok, there was one bloqueo in La Paz–parents were protesting against the municipal government because their children had not received their vaccinations as promised. It was a peaceful protest and we walked an extra 1.5 miles or so to get through it and then continue on with our day in La Paz. It was Jesus’ first bloqueo, so hey, it was educational!)

To view all the pictures of my trip, click here.

I was able to eat all of my favorite food and then some while in Bolivia. Here is a recap of the deliciousness!

I wasted no time to start eating all the Bolivian food I missed!  After we arrived to the airport  (~9 am) and were picked up by my friends Sandra and Susana, we went to my favorite salteña cafe in Santa Cruz for breakfast. I ordered my usual: one spicy chicken salteña and fresh papaya juice. Whenever I would come to the city during my service,  I always made it a point to come here. Salteñas are savory pastries that originated in the northern city of Salta, Argentina and somehow made their way to Bolivia. They are a typical mid-morning snack all over the country. They are primarily made with ground beef (and rarely chicken), spices, very finely diced potatoes, and sometimes a boiled egg and olive inside. In my opinion, the juicier they are, the better. Ironically, I didn’t care for Vallegrande’s version of the salteña. (Vallegrande was the town I served in.)

The space that hosts the salteña shop in the morning doubles up and also happens to host my favorite afternoon “masita” shop, called Horno Caliente. Masitas are little pastries, most of them savory that people eat in the afternoon and evening with tea or coffee. Most Bolivians do not eat dinner as the main meal of the day is lunch and “dinner” ends up being something simple like a masita, bread, etc. My favorite masitas cruceñas (from the Santa Cruz department) are the cuñape (round ball on left) which is about a 50/50 mixture of yuca (manioc root) flour and cheese–it’s basically a cheese bomb.! And the other one is a sonzo which is made of boiled and then mashed yuca mixed with cheese and then baked. They are both best fresh out of the oven.

This photo won’t win any awards, but it does feature another of my favorite dishes–charque. Charque is basically dried and then cooked beef. Think jerky. In fact, the word jerky comes from the word charque. The charque I ate is beef, but it is also made from llama meat, more commonly consumed in the western Altiplano area of the country. It is usually served with boiled potatoes and mote, which is reconstituted dry corn. Another one of my favorites!

This is not Bolivian food! One morning, my mom and I made my friends typical breakfast tacos, fresh squeezed OJ and papaya. The Bolivians approved 🙂

Ok, here’s another not-Bolivian-food. This is my mom’s famous Chocolate Icebox Cake that she only makes for birthdays. She was so sweet to make it for me on my bday in Bolivia! (And IMHO, Bolivian cake is not…well…good…)

Sandra made majadito, which is a typical Santa Cruz dish: charque, rice, veggies, fried plantains and an egg on top. Yesssssss!

Comfort food: choclo con queso y yuca (fresh corn, farmer cheese and yuca). I have fond memories of women selling choclo con queso on my 7 hour bus ride from the city back to my site, Vallegrande. “Choclo con qUEEEEEEEsOOOOOOOOOOOOO” they would shout.

Just a typical market scene!

I took this photo because it demonstrates that tubers are king in Bolivia. In the middle row from left to right are: red potatoes, purple fingerling potatoes, papaliza, more varied potatoes and oca.

Cual lengua quieres? (Which tongue would you like?) My friend, Andrew, with whom we stayed in La Paz, had his empleada make us picante de lengua (below).

Picante de lengua is made with tongue, veggies and aji seco, or dried chile peppers. It’s not really picante. Here it is served over tunta. Tunta is freeze-dried potatoes. It had been traditionally made by the indigenous Aymara and Quechua communities. The process involves exposing a frost-resistant type of potatoes to the freezing night temperatures of the Altiplano region and then exposing them to the intense sunlight during the day. They are then constantly sprayed with water, which makes them white as opposed to chuño, which is another freeze-dried potato but is generally black and not exposed to water. The advantage of treating potatoes this way is that they can be stored for very long amounts of time. I’m kinda luke-warm on eating chuño/tunta–maybe it’s an acquired taste?

In the background, you’ll see a bottle of Hauri, my favorite Bolivian beer, still made with Huari spring water.

These two pictures feature the granadilla, one of my all-time favorite fruits. Sadly, I have never seen them for sale in the U.S. The granadilla is in the passion flower family and is originally from the Andes between Venezuela and Bolivia. I nicknamed it “brain fruit” because that is what it looks like. The “shell” is easy to break with your fingers and then you eat the seeds and gelatinous material surrounding the seeds. Yes, I know, it sounds gross. My mom put her nose up at it when I showed her the fruit, but upon eating it, really liked it. Don’t knock anything before you try it!

Here is Jesus eating Pique Macho. Pique is a dish that you pick at and often share. Basically it’s a bed of homemade fresh fries piled high with beef (think fajita meat), hotdogs, cheese, boiled eggs, tomatoes and locoto (one of the typical hot peppers of Bolivia). This was a treat for Jesus!


One response

  1. Rachel

    Love it and it reminds me of a lot of the Andean food from Ecuador. Choclo is soooo delicious! I wonder what type of corn it is.

    October 11, 2011 at 4:27 pm

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