Tag Archives: food

Kyrgyz Food

The first day in Bishkek, a group of us went on a walking tour with the amazing Aigol from the Green Apple Hostel to learn a little about the city.  I mentioned to her that I was really interested in the traditional food of the countries I visit and asked her to let me know if we came across anything very typical of Kyrgyzstan.

Along the way, we found this lady selling traditional Kyrgyz drinks in one of the many parks in Bishkek.  The options were: Shoro – a wheat drink, Tan – a salty yoghurt drink, or juice.   Aigol ordered the Tan and I had a sip of that – definitely not my thing.   So, I ordered the Shoro – oh my God – absolutely not my thing either.  I had to surreptitiously pour it out in the garden – I really couldn’t drink it!     Lesson learned – I don’t like traditional Kyrgyz drinks!

Traditional Kyrgyz drinks - Shoro and Tan - Bishkek

A little later on, everyone was up for the suggestion of Aigol that we finish the walking tour with lunch at a Kyrgyz restaurant.   It was quite a fancy place with an extensive menu … difficult to decide what to have!

I ended up ordering the most typical Kyrgyz version of “Beshbarmak on – Naryn”: horsemeat, long noodles, onion.  Yeah – not the tastiest thing I’ve eaten … I think I’m done with Beshbarmaks now 😊

Kyrgyz food - Beshbarmak on – Naryn - Bishkek

I also ordered a couple of traditional breads to go with it – Boorsok is a fried dough that is quite plain, but would be awesome with some sort of sauce or yoghurt to dip into. 

Kyrgyz food - Boorsok - Bishkek

And Kattama – fried layered pastry dough with spring onion – which was very tasty, and went down very well cold the next day for lunch as well!

Kyrgyz food - Kattama - Bishkek

Had a great lunch with Aigol and really appreciate her taking extra hours out to introduce us to some of the food of Kyrgyzstan!

We had another opportunity to try a very famous Kyrgyz dish when we visited the town of Karakol on our 3-day trip around Issyk Kul.   Our driver took us to what looked like a hole-in-the-wall place (but one that was very, very popular with the locals) so we could try Ashlyan-fu, the specialty of the town.

Ashlyan-fu restaurant - Karakol - Kyrgyzstan

Ashlyan-fu is a dish of cold, vinegary noodles with fish.   I didn’t find any actual fish in mine, so maybe “fishy bits” might be a more accurate description!   It was really delicious and had a bit of a kick to it as well (which was a really lovely surprise) – perhaps due to its origins as a Dungan dish imported from China.   This was served with a bread stuffed with potatoes, which was a nice counterpart to the spicy dish.

Ashlyan-fu - Karakol - Kyrgyzstan

Then, when we stayed in the yurt camp, I had the opportunity to try Kyrgyz Plov.  Very similar to Kazakh Plov, and just as tasty.  I do really like this dish 😊

Plov - Kyrgyzstan

So, very happy to have the opportunity to try several Kyrgyz dishes, and I reckon I’ll be back to visit this amazing country in the future!

Almaty’s Green Bazaar – Kazakhstan

Dennis’ “Golden Quarter” walking tour was fantastic, but it wasn’t the reason I initially contacted him.  Those of you who have been following along for a while won’t be surprised to know that he also offers a foodie tour in the Green Bazaar of Almaty.   Of course, I was in!

Green Bazaar entrance - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Entrance of the Green Bazaar

We were met by another traveler – Benjamin from the US – and headed in to start off with a traditional Kazakh lunch at one of the restaurants in the market.  

The menu looked like this

menu at restaurant - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

I’m really having a hard time getting used to not being able to read anything or understand anything.   I’m so used to travelling in Latin America where, now that I speak Spanish, everything is easy.    Dennis translated for us and made some recommendations, and we ended up with a few different dishes.

Both he and Benjamin ordered Plov – the very typical rice, carrot, meat dish that is really, really tasty.

Plov - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Just to be different, I ordered an interpretation of beshparmak, which usually consists of flat noodles topped with onions, meat, and horse sausage.  This version was called “meat, Kazakh-style”, with the meat broth mixed in to form a soup.   This was also good, but I thought the Plov was tastier.

A version of beshparmak - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

And we decided to share a serving of Manty, dumplings with pumpkin, meat and herbs inside.   This was made even better by the ladzhan – a chilli side that is often served on the table.

Manty - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

All rounded out by tea, of course.   This time tea with lemon 😊

lunch - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

We each paid 1,200 Tenge (less than US$4) for all this food!

lunch - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Next thing was to head off to explore the Green Bazaar itself.   First of all – the whole place is incredibly clean, and looks like it has been organized by a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!   It is immaculate!

Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Everything has its place – there is the section for dried fruit and nuts and the like

Dried fruit and nuts - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

The section for pickled items, where Dennis had to sweet talk the security guard because you are actually not meant to take pictures in the Bazaar.   However, because Dennis knows all the vendors there, they allow his guests special privileges 😊

Pickled things - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

The section for dairy produce – where we were plied with samples of all the different products by this lovely lady who is a friend of Dennis’ wife.

milk products section -Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

We tried a variety of different sweets – some made from cheese products and condensed milk, some made from grains and condensed milk.  All were delicious, but my favourites were those with the more caramel flavours (ie the ones with the condensed milk 😉 )

milk products - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

We tried fresh camel’s milk.   Now – this is not the first time I’ve had a camel-milk product.   Back when I visited Mongolia, I have the distinct memory of visiting a family and being given a massive hunk of camel’s cheese.   It was almost inedible!   See, the thing about camel’s milk is that it is a VERY tart/sour taste and is VERY strong.   My first sip of the milk here took me right back to that hunk of camel cheese I endeavoured to eat 9 years ago…

We also tried the dried salted curds – again, something I encountered in Mongolia, and again, not my favourite thing to eat in the world (actually, the Mongolia trip is the only trip I’ve ever done where I have lost weight).   I don’t exactly remember what it was like in Mongolia, but this one was extremely salty … I don’t think I’ll be buying some for the road, though it does keep incredibly well!

dried salted kurds - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

From there we headed over to the meat section, where they use the whole animal – absolutely nothing is wasted.

meat section - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Nothing is wasted. Yes, those are sheep heads in the bottom image!

This included a section specializing in horse-meat (very common here) and particularly horse-meat sausages.

horse meat section -Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Almost right beside, was the smoked and cured meat section, where we indulged in yet more samples – this time of the dried horse-meat sausage (very tasty!) and a salami that had been made out of horse-meat.

Cured products - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Then there was the dried/smoked fish and caviar section

dried fish - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

The spices section

spices - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

The honey section – Kazakhstan is very proud of its honeys

honey - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

And the “eastern medicine” section, where you could buy brews to cure all manner of ills, as well as other more exotic things like frogs, snakes and crickets.

eastern medicine - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

I actually tried one of the dried crickets dipped in honey – the vendors were all looking at me so expectantly!  

Eating crickets - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Eating crickets with honey in the Green Bazaar. To be honest, it wasn’t great…

All I can say is thank goodness for the honey!  That was lovely, the rest of it really just tasted like dry dust…  And yes I was kinda chewing on what felt like wing-bits for a while afterwards…

Our final stop was downstairs to the fresh produce section.  This was less nice than upstairs given it was quite dingy and dark – and the produce mostly consisted of root vegetables, herbs and apples.   Almaty actually means “apple”, and Kazakhstan is renowned for its apples.   They are particularly proud of the Aport apples – which grow to be quite large.

fruit - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Then to top it all off, I actually had a tomato that tasted like a tomato 😊   Those of you who know me, knows this is one of my ultimate tests of food … and it was delicious!

tomatos - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

 

Recommendation:

If you are interested in markets and trying local foods, can definitely recommend Dennis’ Green Bazaar tour with Walking Almaty.

Cost:  USD$30 + cost of the meal (~USD$5)

Time: 2 hours

Eat Porto!

So, if you’ve been reading along for the past year, you know by now that I have an obsession with typical foods of whichever country I’m visiting.   Portugal was no exception – and I have to admit – it has some of the best treats on the planet!   I reckon I put on over a kilo during the week I visited 🙁

I was very slack at taking photos of the dishes I ate while in the Alentejo region with Jose (trust me, there were many, and all of them enormous), so tried to make up for it in Porto!

And it all started with a classic:  the Pastéis de Nata – a rich egg custard in layers of crisp, flaky pastry.

Nata

I love these things (best when dusted with cinnamon as well), and I’m not alone.  It is possibly the most popular Portuguese pastry, and you can now find them all around the world. 

Given I was hungry, I also had a Rissóis de Camarão (shrimp croquette) – a very popular Portuguese snack – from the same place.  It is basically prawns in a type of béchamel sauce, wrapped in pastry, breaded and deep fried.   Also very good!   Yes, I have a savoury AND a sweet tooth 🙂

Rissol de camarão

Next up:  a heart attack on a plate, and Porto’s typical dish – Francesinha.  The “Little Frenchie” is definitely not for vegetarians, consisting of bread and layers upon layers of different types of meat, then topped off with melted cheese and a tomato and beer-based gravy.

Francesinha

Heart-attack on a plate – Francesinha

Healthy?  It most definitely was not!   Tasty?  Well, it did have a lot of flavour, but the problem was that I didn’t particularly like the flavour.  Having learned what the ingredients are, I suspect this was due to the beer-based gravy – certainly it was that part of the dish that was giving me the most problems.   And although another of my friends graciously offered to switch dishes with me, I ate my way through it … taste-buds becoming more and more numb to the taste as I progressed.   Loads of Portuguese can’t be wrong … but I won’t be ordering it again 🙂

In the evening, we wandered over past the Monumento aos Heróis da Guerra Peninsular to the Mercado Bom Sucesso.    This monument commemorates the victory of the Portuguese (the lion) over Napoleon’s French troops (the eagle) during the Peninsula War (1807–1814), but unfortunately what I saw was a lion humping an eagle on top of a very tall column!   A million apologies for the irreverence 🙁

Monumento aos Heróis da Guerra Peninsular - Porto

The Mercado Bom Sucesso is an awesome place to eat, filled with lots of little cafes serving all sorts of different things.  In keeping with my theme of trying little bits of alcohol, especially if they are typical, I had a go at Poncha – the typical drink from Madeira island.   It is basically aguardiente (the alcohol), sugar and juice from a fruit in season, and wasn’t too bad (I still struggle with the taste of all alcohol).  I did manage to finish it 🙂

Poncha

Poncha, typical drink from Madeira island

And it was here that I found my favourite Portuguese treat (apart from the Nata of course). The Jesuíta!   Created by the Jesuits (no prizes for guessing there), it is a triangular confection consisting of layers of thin, flaky pastry, with a thin filling of egg cream, and topped with a crispy, sweet, cinnamon-meringue crust.    

Jesuíta

My favourite Portuguese treat – a Jesuíta from the Mercado Bom Sucesso

It was heaven!   I was so impressed, I ordered them everywhere else I went around Porto – but none was as good as this first one from the Mercado Bom Sucesso.

So, that was the first day of eating in Porto…. and there might have been one or two other treats consumed in there as well :-/ 

Other typical food that I tried during my time around Porto:

Pastel de Chaves – flaky pastry with minced meat and spices inside.  This name of this pastry is actually protected by the European Union since 1995. 

Pastel de Chaves

Clarinha de Fão – a thin pastry, dusted with icing sugar and filled with chila pumpkin beaten with egg yolks. 

Clarinha de Fão

Bola de Berlim – essentially a Portuguese doughnut with an egg-yolk-based filling.

Bola de Berlim

You might be starting to notice a trend emerging with the sweet pastries … the Portuguese use a LOT of egg-yolks!   So bad.  But oh so yummy!

And finally, a couple of typical dishes cooked specially for me by my friends 🙂

Alheira – a delicious garlicky bread and game sausage – traditionally made without pork (follow the link for the story behind this).   Typically served with boiled potatoes and Grelos – a green leafy vegetable.

Alheira

The sausage is the Alheira

Pão-de-ló – yet another coronary-inducing dessert with so many egg yolks that you don’t even want to know about it!   I was a little worried that it was actually going to taste like egg yolks, but nothing like it!   Absolutely delicious – I went back for seconds, but thought I’d better stop at that point…..

Pão-de-ló

I absolutely love the food of Portugal and can’t wait to visit again to work my way through some more of the pastries and other goodies on offer – and to have another Jesuíta (or 10) from the Mercado Bom Sucesso.

More Bolivian Food

As you might expect, I didn’t stop sampling Bolivian food even though I’d overstuffed myself on the Foodie Tour in La Paz 🙂   Here are some of the other Bolivian delicacies I tried in my 3 weeks in the country:

Salteñas

It doesn’t get much better or more Bolivian than this!  Essentially a baked empanada with what seems to be a slightly sweet dough and different fillings inside.  My favourite by far was the spicy chicken salteña from the salteña shop just up from the Alexander’s Coffee shop, right near the Plaza Avora in Sopocachi neighbourhood.   One of my all-time favourite street foods for only 7 Bolivianos each (~AUD$1)!

Spicy chicken salteña - Bolivian Food

Tucumanas

I found these to be quite similar to not-very-flavourful Samosas – deep fried pastry filled with meat, egg, onion and potato.   Turns out that instead of putting the flavouring in the filling, they allow you to choose your own by serving the Tucumanas with a variety of different sauces (olive, peanut, chimichuri, llagua, another that is a mixture of mayonnaise, tomato sauce and mustard) as well as onion salad.  6 Bolivianos each (<AUD$1).

Tucumanas - Bolivian Street Food

Buñuelos

Turns out that Bolivian buñuelos are very different to Nicaraguan and El Salvadorean buñuelos, and I’m afraid to say – nowhere near as good 🙁  Instead of nice fluffy balls of deep fried dough, the Bolivians make a flat pancake of deep fried dough to serve with syrup.

BUÑUELOS - Bolivian Street Food

Cuñapés

A cuñapé is kind of like a cross between a biscuit and a cake that is made out of either corn (the more yellow one on the right) or yuca and has a very strong cheese flavour.   They are more traditionally found in the jungle or the Santa Cruz region of Bolivia, but I came across these awesome ones in Sucre.  Very moreish!

Cuñapés - Bolivian Street Food

BTW – selling food out of little sidewalk displays like this is very common throughout Latin America.

Humintas

Wandering around the Mercado 25 Mayo in Cochabamba one night I came across a lady selling corn-based products with about a million clients surrounding her all hustling to be served.    I eventually pushed through to the front and asked what was on offer and what were the differences between the different products, as they were all called humintas.

Humintas - Bolivian Food

Bought a baked huminta and headed for the central park to eat it.  Oh my – it was heaven!  Promptly went back and bought 2 more of these and one of the boiled humintas to try (still really yummy but not as good in my opinion).   Was kicking myself for not finding this lady earlier in my stay in Cochabamba (it was my last night).  There was no question why she had such a crowd around her!  I reckon she would have sold everything she had within an hour.

Fruit Salad and Icecream

The upper levels of the Mercado Lanza (Central Market) of La Paz are a fruit-salad-and-icecream lover’s heaven!   Tons of fresh fruit that is sliced up in front of you (mine had banana, watermelon, orange, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, mango, papaya and apple), jelly, cereal, yoghurt, cream and icecream served all together in a massive parfait glass.  What more could you want?!  Given the number of locals that are up there and indulging at all hours of the day – apparently not much!  So I had to join them and do it 🙂  And all for only 10 Bolivianos!  That’s about AUD$1.50.

Fruit salad and icecream - Bolivian Food

Cinnamon Icecream

Speaking of icecream, the most typical flavour of icecream in La Paz is cinnamon.   I have to admit it really smacks you up the side of the head to begin with, and I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not initially, but after a few spoonfuls and once your mouth goes a bit numb from the cold, it’s really quite nice 🙂

Helado de Canela - Bolivian Street Food

Jelly and Cream

I don’t know what this is actually called, and I have to admit that I didn’t try it, but one of the most popular street foods in Bolivia is cup of brightly coloured (and flavoured, I imagine) jelly with masses of whipped cream on top.  Loads of people buy it and it is sold everywhere.

dscf5480

Fresh Orange Juice

Fresh orange juice is a staple street seller throughout a lot of Latin America – and nothing we have in Australia comes even close to being as good as this.  In Bolivia, they make a great show of the peeling of the oranges – displaying the long peelings on the cart and scenting the air with a wonderful citrus smell!  About 7 Bolivianos (AUD$1) for a large cup.

Fresh orange juice - Bolivian food

Sopa de Maní

One of the most typical dishes in Bolivia – peanut soup.  I tried it in Cochabamba (where it originated) and it was OK, but nothing to write home about I have to say.  It was thick and creamy, but it really didn’t taste anything like peanuts…

Sopa de Mani - Bolivian Food

Fricasé

On the recommendation of Carlos at Hostel 3600 (great hostel!), I headed up to J&L restaurant (in a very small street off Boquerón in Sopocachi area – full of locals) where he goes every week for lunch.   I had intended to try the Chairo (which is what he has) but there was only Fricasé on offer – good thing was that was another food on my list to try.

Fricasé turns out to be very tender pork (again) with black rehydrated potatos and white corn in a soupy sauce.  It was absolutely delicious but they gave me about 4 times as much as I could eat!  This plate cost me 35 Bolivianos (~AUD$5).

Fricasé - Bolivian Food

Chairo

I ran out of days in La Paz to go back to J&B Restaurant to try their Chairo, so had it instead in the market in Cochabamba.   Hmmm… will need to give it another go at J&L Restaurant the next time I’m in La Paz I think, as this one didn’t live up to the expectations set by Carlos.  Basically a soup with meat, vegetables and lots of different grains in it.  

Chairo - Bolivian Food

 

 

Cooking Class – Papas Rellenas – Sucre, Bolivia

Turns out cooking classes are very difficult to find in Bolivia!   However, upon looking at all the pieces of paper pinned on the noticeboard in Condor Cafe (highly recommended place to eat!) in Sucre, I came across an offering by La Boca del Sapo (the Toad’s Mouth).  

Moises, who runs the classes, decided to run cooking classes to help save up while waiting to obtain his visa to the UK- very entrepreneurial!  And he runs them out of his own kitchen, with a maximum of 4 participants.

Unfortunately I was really not feeling well this day, but went along anyway to learn how to make Papas Rellenas – one of the most popular and common street foods in Bolivia.   As the name suggests, these are mashed potato balls that are filled with something – in our case egg or cheese.

It is a remarkably simple dish, the most “difficult” part of which is making the sauce that accompanies it.  And even this is not difficult – chopping up tomatoes, onions and capsicum and then cooking them.

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

The fiddly bit is getting rid of all the eyes out of the potatoes, but then they too are super-easy — you just cook them in water until they are ready to mash.  The trick is to get the mash very fine – which turned out to require a fair amount of shoulder power when using forks to achieve this end.

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

Meanwhile, we also made some llajua – a spicy Bolivian sauce that is served with just about everything.   Crushed tomatoes, chilli and herbs basically – but I thought this stone and crusher that were inset into the bench were super-cool!   Had to be careful though not to crush fingers!

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

We then got a production line going with making the potato balls that had the egg or cheese (and in a couple of sneaky cases – egg AND cheese) inside.  These were then dipped in egg wash and flour before being deep fried.

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

The final product!   

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

To be honest, papas rellenas is far from my favourite Bolivian dish.  Quite bland in fact…  But it is what a lot of Bolivians eat!

 

Cost: $100 Bolivianos (assuming 3 or 4 people)

Time: 3 hours

 

Red Cap Foodie Tour – La Paz, Bolivia

Another country, another perfect opportunity to explore the culture through one of my favourite mediums – food 🙂   I really struggled to find a cooking class, but I did come across the Foodie Tour by Red Cap Walking Tours – so immediately signed up.

Daniel met me in front of the San Francisco Church (the favoured meeting place of most tours) and off we headed to the nearby Mercado Lanza as our first stop.  Yes, you guessed it, once again I was the only person doing the tour 🙁

We started off with one of the most common snacks in Bolivia – Api con Pastel.   Api is a warm corn-based drink that is laced with sugar (of course) and spiced with cinnamon and clove.   Has quite a mild flavour in fact.  The reason it is 1/2 purple and 1/2 yellow is that is a mixture of Api made from the black corn and Api made from the regular yellow corn.

The pastel is a little like a cheese empanada from Chile – deep fried pasty with cheese inside and dusted with icing sugar.  Why oh why does fried food have to taste so good!

Api con pastel - Bolivain Food

Api y Pastel – one of the most popular Bolivian snacks

The little food shops in the market are very small indeed (see picture above left) – and when we arrived there was actually a queue at this particular shop for their Api con Pastel – great sign!

The next stop was another popular drink in Bolivia – Jugo de Multivitamina.  Yes, you read that correctly – Multivitamin juice.   It includes all sorts of fruit, honey, cereal, water or milk and an egg if you wish – oh and sugar of course.  So juice with a twist.

The story goes that it it was developed as a “complete meal” for the people who came down from El Alto (a city directly above La Paz city) to work in the markets.  Because they would need to leave super-early in the morning, they wouldn’t have time to have breakfast – so this became their breakfast.

Jugo multivitamina - Bolivian Food

Mine was pretty banana-y but tasted good and had puffed wheat on top. It was at this point that I remembered to pace myself and realised that wouldn’t be able to finish each of the foods I tried.  I only ended up drinking about 1/4 of this one.

From there we went for a stroll through the market that sets up each night in Calle Comercio on our way to Alaya – a very traditional restaurant near the centre of the city.   There I had my first ever sip of beer and, as expected, I really, really didn’t like it.   Huari is apparently the best beer in Bolivia – all the Bolivians I’ve talked to agree on this point 🙂

Huari Beer - best in Bolivia apparently

The first main course, which we had at Alaya, was Fritanga – apparently Daniel’s favourite Bolivian dish.   It is very, very different to a Fritanga in Nicaragua!  Nothing BBQed – but rather incredibly tender pork that melts in your mouth, with rehydrated dehydrated white potatoes (turns out these are really bland) and corn in a fantastic sauce.

Fritanga - Bolivian Food

It is served with Llajua – Bolivia’s spicy chili sauce – but for me the flavour of the Llajua and the flavour of the sauce for the fritanga didn’t go together.  I reckon the Llajua would taste awesome with the Pastel above, but when I suggested this to Daniel he looked at me like I’d grown 2 heads.

After eating too much Fritanga (it was soooooo good!) we headed to our last stop – the Sol y Luna cafe, just around the corner.   There we started off making a Singani Sour – very much like a Pisco Sour in Peru or Bolivia, but using Bolivia’s grape spirit, Singani, instead of Pisco.

Singari Sour - Bolivian drinks

Daniel showing me how to make a Singani Sour

Then came our soup – Jan’qipa Soup – which is made with a corn base as well as onions, carrots and spices. It had a pretty mild flavour but was warm and hearty and Daniel was telling me that it reminds him of visiting his grandmother.

Sopa de Jan'qipa - Bolivain Food

Then our second main meal of the night – Pique Macho – also known as the best drunken food in Bolivia.  The story of its origin that Daniel told was that there were a couple of drunk guys who went into a small comedor (restaurant) about 3am and asked the casera (the lady who cooks) for a meal.   The lady was about to close up shop and she didn’t really have anything much – so she threw together offcuts and all sorts of leftovers that she had.  The guys asked her what it was called and she said Pique Macho.   They loved it so much that they raved about it and, through word of mouth, heaps of people kept going to this lady and asking for Pique Macho.

Then one day the Mayor turns up and asked for Pique macho.  The lady figures she can’t really feed the Mayor offcuts and leftovers so she threw some pork (salchicha – kinda like hotdogs), chicken and beef together with potato fries, capsicum, tomatoes, onion, hardboiled eggs and cheese – and this has become the Pique Macho Bolivians (particularly drunk ones) love today.

Pique Macho - Bolivain Food

It was really, really good – and the added bonus for flavour is that the meat is all cooked in beer 🙂

By this time I was completely overstuffed (a feeling that continued right through the next day) but really enjoyed trying all the different dishes and Daniel was great fun.

 

Recommendation:  Don’t eat lunch.  Remember that you don’t have to finish everything (I forgot this initially).  A fantastic way to get to try some of the most traditional dishes of Bolivia.

Cost:  USD$30 which includes all food and drinks

Time: About 3 – 4 hours

Cusco Culinary – cooking workshop

As you have probably figured out by now if you have been reading this blog for a while, one of the first things I do before heading to a new place is search for cooking classes on offer there. Fortunately Cusco had many choose from, and in the end, I decided upon the dinner menu from Cusco Culinary.

Christian, the chef, came and met me at my hostel and off we headed to the San Pedro Market as our first stop.  Yes – once again – I was the only person doing the cooking class (definitely developing a complex) :-/   The nice thing about that this time was that it turned out Christian had worked in Australia for a few years, so our non-cooking related conversations were largely about Australia and 80s music 🙂

The San Pedro market is quite clean and orderly (markets in South America are much less crazy than Central American ones), with the ubiquous fruit and veg stands and plenty of dried products – including meat and potatoes!

San Pedro Market - Cusco

Always love visiting the fruit and veg sections of latin american markets. San Pedro in Cusco also had dried (and rehydrated) potatoes (bottom left) and dried alpaca meat (bottom right) for sale

It is also full of really cool stuff that costs an absolute fortune in Australia – especially dried fruit and nuts, and all the “superfood” type stuff – quinoa, kiwicha, maca powder, chia seeds, etc.  All this is very, very cheap in Peru.

San Pedro Market - Cusco

The fresh cheeses looked amazing – too bad they were not pasturised (no, not willing to knowingly chance that).

San Pedro Market - Cusco

And for the first time ever I saw a bread section in a market!

cusco market

There are essentially 2 breads in Cusco – the large round one is sweet (and only comes in that size), and a small savory one that is largely hollow and that gets served everywhere with jam.   Neither are loaf-like – apparently the altitude of Cusco (3400m) means that the bread struggles to rise!  There was also only one type of sweet treat – the empanada on the right with sprinkles on it.  It was actually quite yum and a little like shortbread!

After walking through the market, we headed to where the class would be held and I have to say – it was absolutely beautiful inside!   One of the most beautiful and best equipped cooking workshop venues I’ve been in (and I’ve been in quite a few).

Cusco Culinary cooking class - beautiful school

First up, a tasting plate of Peruvian fruits that most people have probably not tried before.

Cusco Culinary cooking class - fruit tasting

Because I’m a cooking school and a Latin American market aficionado, I’d actually had them all – but it was a wonderful way to start the evening.   Clockwise from right:

  • Granadilla – one of my all-time favourite fruits – like a very, very sweet passionfruit
  • Tuna (fruit of the prickly pear) – admittedly I hadn’t eaten the red one before, the green one is what you get in Chile.  It’s full of seeds (as you can see) and not terribly sweet
  • Lucuma – unusual to try it as a fruit rather than as icecream, which is usually the way it is eaten.  It’s texture is that of a boiled sweet potato – and it kind of tastes a little like one as well
  • Aguaymanto (someone told me it is a gooseberry) – slightly tart and, I have to admit, not my favourite
  • Chirimoya (custard apple) – anyone who has been out to dinner with me in Chile knows this is my juice of choice
  • Pepino Dulce – I’d seen these in Australia on occasion but they were always too expensive to buy.  I’d tasted one the week before – it actually tastes a little like a honeydew melon

We also started with a very typical Peruvian drink – Chicha Morada.  Unlike other chichas, this one is not fermented.  Rather, it is made by boiling black corn with other fruits and spices.  Very mild flavour.

Cusco Culinary cooking class - drinks

Left: Chicha Morada; Right: Peruvian Pisco Sour

And the very first thing we made in the class was a classic Peruvian Pisco Sour (right).  I only put in 1/2 the Pisco – which was a good move for someone who doesn’t drink alcohol.   I’m definitely getting the hang of 1/2-strength Pisco Sours now 🙂

Fruit and drinks out of the way, it was time to start on the entree – Quinoa Crusted Causita.   A causita is basically a cold potato dish where the potato is flavoured with the ubiquitous yellow chili of Peru (not spicy).  In this case, we made a sushi roll out of it – with cooked chicken and avocado inside).

Cusco Culinary cooking class - causita

Have to admit, it wasn’t the best dish in the world – not enough flavour for me – but it did look impressive and you have to love my plating abilities: including my plate swirls!

Next up was one of the most common dishes in Peru – Lomo Saltado.  I’d had it a few times before and always thought it was a bit “meh”, but this one showed me how good it could be – it was very, very tasty!  Note that  Christian wore his Qantas chef gear especially for me 🙂

Cusco Culinary cooking class - lomo saltado

Finally – dessert.  I didn’t actually get to make this, as it is prepared by the chef.  Chocolate Lava pudding.  I cannot begin describe how delicious this was!   The best dessert-with-molten-insides I’ve ever had!  So glad they gave me the recipe!

Cusco Culinary cooking class - dessert

Recommendation: I highly recommend the dinner cooking class by  Cusco Culinaryand I’m sure their lunchtime class is just as good.  Food is delicious and it is a lot of fun.

Cost:  $65

Time: ~4 hours

 

It’s healthy – trust us!

Who knew that Fruit Loops had so much nutrition!

Health food

According to the packet, all the Angel brand cereals come enriched with 14 vitamins and minerals that help in the following ways:

  • Iron – to prevent anaemia
  • Vitamin A – to help strengthen teeth and bones, for good vision and to care for the skin
  • Vitamin K – so that blood coagulates well
  • Zinc – for the growth and development of the body and to strengthen natural defenses
  • Vitamin D – to absorb calcium, strengthening the bones
  • Complex Vitamins B – so that you can better use the energy contained in foods

The shield states “A true ally in nutrition”.  Methinks thou dost protest too much!  I think it was probably a good thing that these were on the menu while I was hiking for 10 days!

Menu del Día – Great Latin American Ideas

One of my favourite things about travelling in South America is the extremely cheap set lunches you can get everywhere – the Menu del Día.  Usually you get a choice between 2 entrees and 4-6 mains with the dessert and drink always set.

Here’s what I had for lunch today in Huaraz, Peru for 7 Nuevo Soles (less than $2.50).

Menu del Día

Huge plate of vegetable and quinoa soup, fried trout with rice and potato, jelly for dessert, and juice.

Yet another thing that Australia should adopt!

Sampling Ecuadorian Food

This one’s a bit of a cobbled together post as I kind of sampled Ecuadorian food in a haphazard manner…

My first foray into Ecuadorian food was through the Quito Culinary Tour and Cooking Class, which was followed up by the Friday Night Food Walking Tour offered by Community Hostel in Quito.  There were about 15 of us trying to squeeze onto very narrow footpaths, sharing samples of different local food that could be found around the hostel.

Our first stop was Los Caldos de La Tola and, although I’m not a fan of innards at all, I did try the Caldo con Guagua Mama, which is essentially placenta soup.  Yes, you read that correctly – it is what the lady is holding up in the bottom left picture.   Here we also tried Tortillas con Caucara (which was yum, and not innards-y at all) and Morocho – a warm drink that to me was essentially rice pudding 🙂

Ecuadorian Street Food Tour

The bottom right picture was from the shop across the road and is Tripa Mishka – or BBQ cow tripe.    Again, I’m not a fan of tripe – especially after being inadvertently tricked into trying it the first time by chefs of Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory about 18 years ago (it really wasn’t their fault – it looked like sweet and sour chicken so I took a huge plate.  It most definitely was NOT sweet and sour chicken 🙁 )    Imagine my surprise when I actually really, really liked the Tripa Mishka!

From there we headed up the street a bit to a shop that had lots items made out of corn.    While I’d already tried humitas, empanadas de morocho and pristiños before, I added quimbolitos to my sampling (top right picture) – which were kind of like a humita but with a cake-like texture.  Nice!

Quimbolitos - Ecuadorian Food

At yet another shop across the road, Mr. Pincho, we sampled pinchos (skewers with sausage, potato, mushroom and capsicum) and alitas (chicken wings on a skewer).

Pinchos - Ecuadorian Food

Before heading into La Ronda to try Canalazo (which I’d already had on my mountainbiking trip) and an Empanada de Viento – essentially a very large deep-fried pastry with sugar on top 🙂

Empanada de Viento -Ecuadorian Food

Empanada de Viento

The final stop on the Food Walking Tour was a little further down La Ronda with the best Fritada (kind of roasted then fried pork) I had in Ecuador (and I sampled a lot after this awesome introduction).  Sooooooo good!

Fritada - Ecuadorian Food

Best Fritada I had in Ecuador, plus two types of Aji (spicy sauce). One with peanuts and one without.

That was it for the Food Walking Tour, but based on the recommendations from the Quito Culinary Tour and Cooking Class, I went back to the Santa Clara Market for lunch on a couple of different days.

Once I had fried fish (something I’ve really come to love this year) – I chose the most popular-looking place 🙂

Lunch at Santa Clara market - Quito

Another time, it was the Seco de Chivo – which is beef in a quite flavourful sauce.  Another one of my favourites.

Seco de Chivo- Ecuadorian Food

And both times, to top it all off, I had one of Ecuador’s famous juices that are pre-prepared and ladled straight out of the large jugs.  My favourite combo is Coconut + Blackberry (I’m really on a coconut roll on this trip!)

Batidos - Ecuadorian Food

In addition, on the Free Walking Tour of Quito, we stopped by one of the most famous “sweets” shops in Quito.   So of course I had to sample several of their products as well 🙂  Unfortunately I can’t remember their names – but they were good!

Ecuadorian Sweet Shop

 

Recommendation:

To be honest, the Friday Night Food Walking Tour had potential to be amazing, but fell short.  Not all the samples were included in the price and you only got to have a very small sample of the dishes because it had to be shared between ~15 people.  Also we had to share the drinks we tried from the same cup … which put off quite a few people.

The Free Walking Tour of Quito was really awesome and you should definitely do it if you are visiting.

You should definitely check out the Santa Clara market – it’s a great place to wander around and to eat at – and you can get some awesome Ecuadorian chocolate there!

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