Three Bolivian Specialties
Living in Bolivia was an experience in healthy eating. I don’t think I’ve ever consumed as many fresh fruits and vegetables as during our time there. And it’s all so affordable. You can buy a papaya the size of a toddler for less than a dollar. Of course, not every Bolivian specialty is healthy. Here are some of the more hearty dishes we enjoyed…
The “Plate of La Paz” is probably the most famous dish in the country’s biggest city. A number of friends had swooned over it, and so we immediately sought it out after arriving here. At the table, napkin tucked into my collar, I was rubbing my hands together in anticipation, wondering what this miracle dish would be. And then it was set in front of me. Underwhelming doesn’t begin to describe it. A piece of meat, a big potato, an ear of corn and beans? Just thrown together on a plate?! This was the famous plato paceño?!
But then I started eating. It might be a simple and uncreative dish, but everything was perfectly cooked and delicious. And now, I’ve become one of those people who breathlessly recommend the plato paceño.
This pork dish is a specialty of Cochabamba, but also popular in La Paz. I ordered it at a busy terrace restaurant in Mallasa, after we had visited the Valle de la Luna. Chicharrón is prepared by stewing chunks of pork in a massive cauldron along with garlic, oregano, lemon and chicha (a slightly-alcoholic fermented corn drink). Mine was served with sick-looking blackened potatoes called chuños. The meat was incredibly tender and fell off the bone at the slightest touch.
We ordered it a couple more times when we got to Cochabamba. I don’t know why it amuses me so much, but a restaurant that serves chicharrón is called a chicharronería. Sounds like a nasty Bolivian jungle disease.
When Jürgen ordered this Bolivian specialty, he hadn’t been expecting a massive bowl of orange-colored soup with giant pig bones sticking out and heart-sized potatoes floating around the brine. He was initially so disgusted that he almost sent it back. But, just like my experience with the Plato Paceño, all grumbling disappeared the instant he started eating.
It was a bit hard to get the meat off the bone without making a nasty, splashy mess, but he mostly managed. I knew he was pleased with his fricasé when he looked up at me with a huge grin, mouth completely smeared with orange slop. Aww… that’s my guy!