Tarija is full of good food and drink, the kind you can’t get very easily elsewhere in Bolivia; ice cream, coffee, cheese, salad, sandwiches…
But on New Year’s Eve, everything closed by 9pm. It seemed like the weirdest thing to do on the biggest night of the year. But this is not a night for making money, it’s a night to celebrate at your own private party with family or friends.
The only place that was still open was a fast food stand on Plaza Sucre. It was jam-packed (suggesting to me that more places ought to stay open at this time) and a hamburger involved a thirty minute wait. We went for a hotdog instead, ‘completo’ style. Mustard, ketchup and cheese? Of course. Corn? Um, why not? Tiny pieces of fried potato? Might as well.
It actually tasted pretty good (as far as hotdogs are concerned). We were still hungry afterwards though, so we bought butter-flavour puffed corn snacks called “bird food” (they were actually human food, thankfully).
The next morning, we set off into the rainy, abandoned streets in search of more sustenance. Nothing was open. We went to the central market and even that was closed. But, there were some food stalls under a makeshift shelter along one side of the building. Once again it was crowded with people, wolfing down bowls of food while standing under dripping tarps.
I’m not really a fan of street food in La Paz. It seems to mostly consist of fried meat with a plateful of dry carbohydrates, no sauce or fresh vegetables. But the food in Tarija…looked really good! We didn’t know what any of it was, but we ordered something that had salad, vegetables and mincemeat, and thoroughly enjoyed it (we later found out it’s called saice, although it didn’t look like any saice I’ve seen in La Paz).
It was, without a doubt, the best street food I’ve had in Bolivia. Perhaps it was a good thing that everything else was closed that day?