Weird and exotic food in Bolivia?
Replies: 31 - Last Post: Oct 15, 2012 1:38 PM Last Post By: jamesbrunker
Oct 12, 2012 5:35 PM
15I'm yet to eat good Chifa in Bolivia too. There is a silver service Chifa restaurant not far from my house I'll have to check out some time. The funniest are the Chinese fried chicken restaurants. Basically it's a typical sleazy friend chicken joint which serves oily noodles and fried rice as a side dish instead of the normal papas. They go all out decorating the place with Chinese lanterns any everything. Only in Bolivia...
Good steak is available in La Paz too, imported from Beni and Santa Cruz of course. As Ban said there's plenty of good food in the big cities, just not Bolivian food. Lots of great set lunches here in Sopocachi for 20-50Bs, with 50 being fine dining. An equivalent meal in a posh suburb in Australia would literally be 20-50 dollars. Dinners more expensive but still very cheap compared to western countries.
As for polish food, I remember being a big fan of their sausages. Can't remember the same but they give the Germans a run for their money.
I read the OP's request for "weird and exotic" to mean food that would be gross to your average western. Don't worry there is plenty around. In the smaller towns you may not have any choice.
Oct 13, 2012 5:10 AM
16If you want guinea pig you'll have to go to Cochabamba, where it is pretty popular, seems to be eaten much more by Quechua than Aymara people.
Personally I think the cuisine in Bolivia is better than most people give it credit for (in the larger towns at least), though it can be quite heavy and spicy in La Paz and the highlands and vegetarians will not have a great time. You generally wont find good local food going to the more touristy places, ask locals for recommendations. There are a wider range of pork and lamb based dishes here than in most other SA countries. Popular local pork dishes are fricase (a stew), fritanga and lechon (roast sucking pig). If you are in / passing Oruro try to go to Nayjama restaurant a couple of blocks from the train station, known across the country for its lamb dishes. There are plenty of mixed grill and barbecue places in La Paz (the best beef is in the Argentine steak places, though a lot comes from the easy of the country as well), and many places offer pique macho (chopped beef with chilis, onion, peppers, cheese, sausage, tomatoes, eggs) and variations.
Finding alpaca and llama shouldn't be a problem. You should also try charquekan, charque is the name for dried meat, usually llama or beef but can be lamb as well (the name jerkin as in beef jerkin is derived from it). All over the highlands there are large and filling soups that are a meal in themselves. Chairo is a very popular one in La Paz (esp at weekends), jolke is a tasty stew / soup based on kidneys.
Quinoa and potatoes (you'll see loads of types in markets) here are generally very good, though I still cant get my taste buds round the highland Bolivian habit of freeze drying potatoes (for preservation) into the small dehydrated black lumps they call chuño. As well as trout locals eat quite a few other fish species from Lake Titicaca (pejerrey is the one tourists are most likely to see in restaurants), though some are getting scare now due to overfishing. Don't try the anklas de rana (frogs legs) if you are offered them in Copacabana or the food stalls near the Tiquina ferry, the large and unique Titicaca frog they come from is endangered.....
If you like weird and wacky dishes to gross your friends out with here's a couple to try out:
-Caldo de cabeza, a soup with half a sheeps skull (brains'n'all!), potato and other veggies. Several places in El Alto are very well known for it. There is also a dry version without the caldo.
-Rostro asado, a speciality in Oruro which I've not tried yet, apparently a whole sheeps head complete with wool that is roasted with a blowtorch or similar, burning the wool off and cooking the brains etc inside the skull in the process.......!
There's bound to be others if you ask around, provecho!!
Oct 13, 2012 8:51 AM
Oct 13, 2012 11:07 AM
18Seems like all the responses ignore the real bolivian cuisine. As a local, I can fully recommend trying "lengua" (tongue) which is really almost a delicacy. Then, try "rostro asado" which is literally fried face of sheep, really nice. Then, a soup called "Carapulka" is probably as exotic as you can get since it is a soup with an actual volcanic stone in it that is served boiling in a bowl and you eat it like that. Then, there are hundreds of others such as zonzo, locro de pollo, pacumutu, etc. Travelers who come to bolivia leave with a bad impression because the problem is that there is not one restaurant that has them ALL in one city and that is recommended in the LP guide for example. You need to get to know a local and have him or her take you to the good places wheree you can order them. Also, each city has good restaurants but you only get proper dishes from the same department as they specialize in their own dishes. WHat i mean is that a restaurant in La Paz will hardly cook a proper Rostro Asado which comes from Oruro. You'd have to go there to get the best one. Try to eat some of the best dishes from the city you will be visiting. HOPe this helps.
Oct 13, 2012 2:40 PM
19#19 The white ones are called tunta and I think are prepared in a similar way. I find them much more palatable than the chuño, especially when they are stuffed with cheese.
#20 I realised afterwards I'd forgotten to mention picante de lengua , one of my favorite Bolivian dishes :-P There are also various other picantes that are worth trying. Worth mentioning that zonzo, locro de pollo, pacumutu, etc are more Santa Cruz specialties though you may well find them elsewhere (in La Paz a resto run by a family from Sta Cruz on Landaeta just up from Plaza del Estudiante serves them).
Oct 13, 2012 4:50 PM
How do you think that might be possible, when people come to spend one, two, or three days at most, in each place? Locals don't come to bus stations to take care of foreign visitors and show them around, do they?
Oct 13, 2012 7:48 PM
21#20 No disrespect compadre but Bolivians just have a weird taste...you like your beef hard and overcooked, you advice "delicacy" of "fried face of sheep" - I don't even want to imagine that.
Besides how many things you can eat fired, deep fried or simply swimming in fat?
Never heard of Carapulka indeed, it sounds pretty interesting but I doubt it will conquer my heart.
I'm afraid is not the fault of the guide book but the diet of the pueblo, as people accustomed themselves of eating pollo con papas fritas.
Food you are talking about is just too rare even for regular Bolivian folks.
I know enough locals alike and they eat fires with meat day by day and this is the reality.
Anyway I strongly appreciate your input and it will be fantastic to learn about more sophisticated Bolivian cuisine if you have a time to write a little guide for benefit of those foodies looking for great culinary experience.
Ehh....buen provecho, but I'll stay with roast leg, shoulder and royal rack.
Edited by: ban_janti_return
Oct 14, 2012 12:38 AM
22For the foods you want, you can find them almost anywhere in the Andes. Cuy is more popular in Peru and Ecuador, but it is certainly available in Bolivia, but as it is relatively expensive, it's not that common. As some of the other posters have mentioned, there are plenty of dishes and some are more common to specific areas, just do a little bit of research on the internet - that's what it's there for. By the way, carapulcra is available in much of the Andes, although the Peruvian version might be a little different. But with a few excellent exceptions like salteñas, I agree with most of the posters - most Bolivian restaurants I visited were uninspiring and underwhelming and papas fritas y pollo is pretty much the most popular dish. If you want to try something exotic and different, Peru's where most foodies are headed these days. Yup, there are some pretty awful Chifas out there, but I've been to a few good ones. I hear even Gaston Arcurio's opened one in Barranco.
Oct 14, 2012 1:56 AM
23I was not impressed with food in Bolivia either - complete opposite of Peru. Having said that, if you will be in La Paz, try El Consulado restaurant - they do have llama dishes among other things, and the quality of everything is simply incredible. Trout is fairly common in upper end restaurants. Llama is common. Tried a soup with some sort of dried potatoes and didn't really like it - was kinda chewy.
Oct 14, 2012 5:20 AM
24#23 bjr Carapulka is pretty tasty, though there seem to be a lot of variations. There is one lady in Potosi who is famous for hers, quite rich and spicy. Her name is I think Doña Maria Eugenia and most locals and taxi drivers will know of her, shouldn't take long to confirm the details (few years ago we went). Her restaurant is on the outskirts of Potosi somewhere (you'll need a taxi to find it) and very popular.
I wouldn't call most of those dishes rare (the rostro is a bit of a speciality), though you might need to ask for recommendations for places that serve them . Given your adopted camba status I'd be surprised if you hadn't come across zonzo, pacamutu or locro, those are pretty common.
Got to try that rostro asado (been meaning to for ages), looks like it would be a good addition to the photo collection ;-)
Oct 15, 2012 12:08 AM
25As above (18 and 20) posters have said, it is important to eat local dishes in the different departments, otherwise you will get more or less a "foreign" variety of the dish.
If you happen to visit Santa Cruz, La Casa del Camba is a good restaurant to try local dishes and their "chicharron de lagarto" (fried cayman nuggets) is said by amateurs to be the best in the whole department.
Zonzo is delightful
Majadito one of my favourite dishes (rice with meat)
and all the "snack foods" such as cuñapes, tamales, salteñas, empanadas, etc.
(for these, try Las Delicias or Tertulia) (even though they'good in almost any place ;)
Edited by: Aran_
Oct 15, 2012 6:01 AM
Oct 15, 2012 10:29 AM
27Camba food is influenced by Brazil and Paraguay (lots of beef and black beans and nothing wrong with it) and it's different than regular kolla fare, but still I wouldn't call things you find in Casa De Camba a "folks meal", same as in Poland - nobody eats wild pheasant or deer, but rather wienerschnitzel with potatoes. Same goes for Bolivia, even in camba land pollo con papas is king
Better Bolivian food is still unfortunately unmatchable with eg Peru
Honestly if someone has any doubts I encourage him to go to Arequipa and then compare any stuff from any department, decent as it can be found, it's nothing like in Peru, and both countries share same climate and ingredients (besides obvious access to the sea of lack of it)
IMO Bolivians just rarely know how to cook good
#26 I will try to find Doña Maria Eugenia if I'm even in Potosi. Lorco is pretty decent indeed, but still is not winning my heart.
I think I'm just a spoil imperialist gringo that can't admire real fare of the working people ;D
Edited by: ban_janti_return
Oct 15, 2012 12:21 PM
28I've eaten plenty of "real Bolivian food" at non touristy restaurants and home cooked meals, including several of the dishes that are mentioned here (certainly not the Rostro Asado however). So far nothing has really taken my fancy. Admittedly, I may belong in the just a spoil imperialist gringo that can't admire real fare of the working people category as well.
Oct 15, 2012 1:15 PM
29At least Evo hasn´t forced everyone onto an altiplano revolutionary working peoples diet of rice, chuño, rancid cheese and those boiled broad bean type things yet. If he wants to get rid of imperialist gringos and continue the decolonisation process that he likes to go on about would be more efficient way to do it than moaning about the US Embassy's activities.....
Even Peru (who's cuisine is better than Bolivia I'll admit, damn I miss their seafood :-( ) has more than its fair share of cheap pollo a la grasa con papas fritas places which seem to be v popular with the locals.
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