Bolivian cuisine is not exactly world famous. With the opening of a restaurant in La Paz by Danish chef Claus Meyer, this might change. But I’m not interested in fine dining. I’m interested in the cheap eats you can get in barebones restaurants. So here are some of our favourite dishes that we used to order when we lived in Bolivia.
SOUPS – Bolivian soups are hearty and filling. Although served as a first course, the portion sizes are sometimes big enough to make it a whole meal.
Sopa de Mani
This soup uses ground peanuts which gives it a thick, creamy consistency but not really a peanut flavour. It contains pasta and vegetables, sometimes with a chunk of beef.
MAINS – Usually heavy on the carbohydrates and meat, light on vegetables. Like soups, the portion sizes can be huge.
Aji de Fideo
This pasta dish is similar to a bolognese, but with a greasy, meat-based (rather than tomato-based) sauce. Oh, and some potato for good measure. We are in the Andes after all.
Chuleta de Cerdo
A pork chop, cooked in the oven, and sometimes rubbed in a sweet-spicy sauce. It’s usually accompanied by roast potatoes and cooked banana.
Trucha or Pejerrey
Trout and kingfish are farmed in Lake Titicaca. They are usually served fried with rice and ‘salad’ (onion and tomato). At the street stalls in Mercado Rodriguez, your order of fish comes with two kinds of potato, yucca and oca – tuck in with your fingers and try to get through even half of all those carbohydrates.
Saice is a mix of minced beef, peas and potato, served with rice or pasta, and salad. It’s one of the few dishes that’s light on meat.
Although I’m not entirely sure of the ingredients, I think this is the only vegetarian dish I’ve seen in Bolivia. It’s a sauce of yellow aji (non-spicy) with pieces of cheese, onions and habas (broad beans/ fava beans), served over potato and choclo. It’s mild tasting, but the salty cheese is my favourite part.
Sajta de Pollo
Chicken, peas and potato in a rich, slightly spicy sauce made from aji. Served with double carbohydrates, of course.
Pasteles y Buñuelos
These delicious fried dough products are served in the morning as a breakfast snack, often accompanied by api. A pastel has a small amount of cheese inside, whereas a buñuelo is just plain dough (much like a chewy doughnut). Both are sometimes dusted with icing sugar or drizzled in a sweet syrup.
Tucumanas & Salteñas
Various forms of empanadas, which I wrote about here.
Sandwich de Chola
The ultimate late night snack, these kebabs of beef hearts (which taste like the tenderest steak you’ll ever eat) are served from street stalls that advertise themselves with a bright burning flame next to the grill. Add potato and spicy peanut sauce and you’ve got half a meal right there.