Bolivia’s cuisine is famous for its variety based on typical products such as different types of fruits and vegetables, meat, wheat and corn etc., which are used to prepare mouth-watering dishes. The Bolivian cuisine varies according to the geographical area; in other words, each region has its own typical flavors. The highlands are well-known for their carbohydrates; Cochabamba for its chicken, beef, lamb, pork, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and bananas; and the lowlands for their cassava, fruits and vegetables.
In the city of La Paz, you cannot miss tasting the fricase paceño (pork stew) or a hot cup of coffee with a marraqueta (crunchy bread roll). If you continue to travel towards the south of Bolivia and you visit Oruro, don’t miss out trying the rostro asado (baked lamb´s head) and the charquekan (dried llama meat). After visiting the Casa de la Moneda museum in Potosi, try some salteñas (meat and vegetable pastry). In Sucre, after walking around the museums, churches and La Recoleta, you can have delicious criollo sausages for lunch. In Tarija, after visiting the vineyards, the saice (spicy braised beef) cannot be missed. Santa Cruz bakeries offer a good majadito, sonso and cuñape (pastries) to enjoy with a hot cup of coffee. Beni and Pando welcome you with a delicious masaco (smashed plantain with charque (dried meat)), tamales (ground corn stuffed with meat or cheese then steamed in a leaf) and locro (soup with potatoes, corn and avocado). Upon your return to Cochabamba enjoy once again the delicious delicacies that the llajta (Cochabamba) offers. Enjoy!
Quinoa – the sacred grain
Quinoa used to be the principal crop of the Andes and the principal food product of the Incas who considered it to be a sacred grain. The Incas called the “chenopodium quinua” or quinoa grain the Mother Grain. Quinoa has been produced for over 5,000 years on an altitude of 3,000 to 4,000 meters above sea level, where annual rainfall is between 200 and 400 mm. This is clear from quinoa grains found with mummies buried in the ancient Inca Empire.
Recent bio-archeological research has shown that the super cereals such as quinoa, kiwicha, maize, beans and potatoes were part of the daily diet of not only the Incas but also the Mayas and Aztecs. Except for the potatoes which, at the beginning with considerable delays and difficulties, spread all over the world after two centuries and have become one of the most widespread food products, the other precious cereals were relegated into oblivion. This ancient society of farmers used the communications network of its territory to store the cereal harvest along the road. The Central Road (qhapaq Ñan in quechua) united a series of convenient places from north to south near this main road, at fresh and well-ventilated altitudes to preserve the grains.
Today, 2,500,000 metric tons of quinoa are exported from the Bolivian highlands to markets in Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Austria, France and Peru.
The flavor of the Bolivian valleys
The valleys of Cochabamba, Chuquisaca and Tarija produce a great variety of fruits and egetables, grains and legumes. Cochabamba, a very peculiar department where the people are adamant about enriching Bolivia’s cuisine, aromas, flavors and sensations come together to please the senses. Cochabamba is the gastronomic city by excellence, where api (hot corn drink) with pastel (thin fried pastry), salteñas (meat and vegetable pastry), sausages, stuffed potatoes, chank’a de pollo (chicken stew), picante de pollo (chicken in spicy pepper sauce), pique macho (diced mix of meats, potatoes and vegetables), chicharron (fried chicken or pork), charque (dried meat), huminta (corn pastry), silpancho (chicken fried steak) and all other Bolivian flavors are present. If something has not been created here, it is the custom of the Cochabamba people to improve it up to the point where all forget where it came from and it becomes for evermore a “cochabambino plate.” Moreover, every plate is accompanied by llajua (a kind of spicy sauce prepared with chili pepper, tomato, quilquiña herb and a touch of salt); this sauce has the distinctive feature of garnishing even the most insipid dish. For the cochabambino, llajua is like the cherry on the ice cream.
The Sucre cuisine offers tradition, variety, flavor and aroma in its dishes, besides a variety of excellent chocolates and sweets, which will satisfy even the most demanding connoisseurs. The most typical dishes here are the Chuquisaca sausages and the criollo sausages served before noon, usually with a glass of black beer. The empanadas (small pies) are an important element of the traditional Chuquisaca cuisine as a mid-morning snack. Fritanga (spicy pork and egg stew) is prepared with pork, chili pepper, onions and white mote (corn grains). Mondongo (pork soup) has cooked corn grains, pork skin and a spicy sauce, served with pork. Karapecho is prepared with dried meat, potatoes and corn grains. Coco de Pollo is prepared with chicken, chicha (maize beer) and seasoner. And finally, sulka is beef with maize, and a salad of lettuce, tomato and onion.
Tarija’s cuisine is famous for its typical dishes such as arvejado (meat and pea stew), saice (spicy braised beef) and chanka de pollo (strongly flavored chicken soup). The arvejado is a mix of peas with local chili pepper and meat, served with rice. Tarija’s most traditional dish is saice, a preparation with minced meat, floury potatoes, peas, served with rice, noodles and chuño (freeze-dried potatoes) fried with cheese and eggs and a side salad of tomato, lettuce and onion. Chanka de pollo is a spicy chicken soup served with potatoes or freeze-dried potatoes. Lowland culinary temptations
In the east of Bolivia, people eat tujuré (corn dough) with milk, lejía and milk, served either hot or cold. The most important food product is corn of many varieties, such as kulli or purple corn. In the lowlands – Pando, Beni and Santa Cruz – cassava replaces potatoes and more vegetables are used. These regions also produce sugar, bananas, Brazil nuts, tropical fruits, soybean and beef. The main dish in the lowlands is locro, a thick rice soup with dried meat or chicken. In this extremely humid region, pastries are preserved in a very clever way: they are left in the oven at low heat until they harden. The pastries are then soaked in coffee or another hot drink when eaten.
Some of the best-known dishes in the eastern cuisine are the sopa tapada, a typical soup from Beni with different layers of rice, meat, eggs and bananas with olives on top, more or less like a noodle pie. Asadito colorado is a typical dish in the province of Vallegrande, which has seasoned pork and red pepper; it is cooked in the grease dripping from the meat and served with boiled potatoes, chili peppers and bread. The grilled kjaras are a typical dish from the valleys, in the area near the departments of Santa Cruz and Chuquisaca, particularly in the province of Vallegrande in Santa Cruz, prepared with mote (corn grains), potatoes, pork chops and pigskin, cooked on coal. This delicious dish invites you to enjoy the flavors of the Bolivian lowland cuisine.