Villazón, Bolivia – Following on this morning’s rant, as I said, a separate posting on my food experiences during my weekend travels (travails?). First off, most of the food on the trip was either brought along or sold by vendors who got on the bus at various stops (sandwiches and such), or at roadside cafeterias that had arrangements with the bus lines.
But we had two real meals in our little frontier town. The first, on the evening of our arrival. We were wandering around and finding that most of the restaurants are oriented around the “day trippers” and served only lunch. The few that were still open were all chicken related – it’s apparently a common thing for dinner here. They fell into two varieties, pollo al spiedo, or chicken on a spit, and broasters, which I think of as “broiled-roasted,” but here, isn’t. We opted for this type, which is very similar to “Peruvian” roast chicken – essentially the chicken is marinated in soy sauce and spices, then tossed into a pot of boiling oil until cooked through and the skin is crispy, then dunked in a pot of the same marinade that is also boiling, and then tossed on the grill to finish it. Yum! Maybe “broasted” here means boiled-roasted… We ordered a whole chicken, it came with a large plate of decent fries, and a liter bottle of papaya salvetti, a papaya-based soda that is apparently the Bolivian national soft drink.
For lunch the next day, while we were exploring the street market, we happened on a small place called Comedor Emanuel. It was nothing more than a small countertop kitchen and five tables. But their chalkboard listed a couple of local specialties, so why not? I wasn’t particularly hungry, so just ordered a large bowl of the sopa de maní, or peanut soup. It was really quite good! I gather that the broth is made with beef and peanuts, then strained, leaving a somewhat cloudy, but strongly flavored broth, to which is added vegetables, potato, pasta, and a little bit of soup beef.
Henry ordered the picante de pollo, or spicy chicken plate. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. It was sort of vaguely garlicky chicken in a garishly yellow colored sauce. It was accompanied by a variety of sides on the plate – pasta, tomatoes, red onions, and the most interesting was my first exposure to something called chuño. Henry’s assessment was that it was pretty badly made chuño, being basically flavorless. The stuff is made from small Andean potatoes that are put into a large earthen pot with some water, then buried in the ground for several weeks where they ferment and get moldy. Then they’re dug up, sun-dried, and salted and seasoned. In the end, they’re cooked into dishes like this one, and regain moisture. The biggest problem with these was apparently a lack of salt and seasoning, not that I was fond of the chalky texture. They’re also ugly as can be.
Oh, and afternoon update on this morning’s post… Henry called from Lima, Peru, where he’d gotten to. All is well, he’s continuing on to his hometown of Trujillo this evening, and will spend a week or so there getting a new passport, then head back here… keeping our fingers crossed that all goes well.