Friday, 26 April 2013

How Bolivia ditched McDonald's for sheep's head soup

It’s true much of Bolivia’s cuisine probably wouldn't draw international attention. But Bolivians have a fiercely independent attitude to their food generally: it’s the only Latin American nation without a McDonalds, as shown in this film out last year that told how the company decided to leave because local people were fonder of their own fast foods:

I think it is this spirit that convinced Noma’s Claus Meyer to pick Bolivia ahead of any other country for setting up his second restaurant- Gustu- because it is similar to what the Noma-inspired Nordic food movement is striving for in northern Europe. Check out this fantastic Claus Meyer clip explaining the idea behind the movement.

Bolivia has a huge street food culture, in La Paz, for instance, you could probably munch your way through 24 hours of street food unique to the region:

Early morning: api with buñuelos: a gloopy purple maize drink with cinnamon and sugar served with hot fried pastries- sweet or savoury and often stuffed with cheese. You can find this all year round and in most cities.

Mid-morning: choclo cobs of giant white corn served with salty homemade cheese. This is seasonal from Dec- March and you will find it more in markets.

 Before lunch: salteñas- Bolivia’s ubiquitous pasties- baked and usually filled with meat, spices, potatoes, egg, olives, served at stands on every corner with a variety of spicy and colourful dips. (all year round)

Many markets have fresh fruit juice stands where you pick out fruits trucked from the Amazon region that servers will then blend and squeeze in front of you. (depending on each fruit season)

Afternoon: sandwich de chola (peasant lady’s sandwich): roasted pork and crackling served in a crusty bun with sweet-pickled vegetables and a spicy chili sauce. (all year round)

After dark: revellers delay their journey home for anticuchos: lamb’s heart kebabs skewered with a potato. All year round and normally you will find a lady selling them outside clubs and concerts.

There has even been a recent resurgence among wealthier families to go up to the poorer districts in search of places that serve sheep’s head soup (not really something I could manage myself!).

A friend of mine recently mentioned her very first impression of Bolivia was, when crossing the border from Argentina, she spotted a lady selling fresh orange juice squished in front of her - a very welcoming and refreshing introduction.

Gustu restaurant opened last Thursday (18 April). Some of their dishes seem extremely inventive and from what I have read and heard is outstandingly delicious. I can't wait to try it for myself.

Our new Gastronomic Tour of Bolivia showcases all the tastes and smells that make up the country's food and drink- culminating with a meal at Gustu. If food is a real passion, you could even combine this with our Peru Gastronomic Tour for a comprehensive gourmet adventure.

HighLives' related tours:

13-Day Bolivian Odyssey
Bolivia Gourmet Tour
The Andes Gourmet 
Discover Peru
Uyuni Salt Flat and Desert Safari


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