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Bolivia & Peru

  • c

I know I want to eat as much ceviche as possible
when I get to Peru next month but what other
delicacies or special foods should I try while
in Bolivia and Peru?

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  1. Come on -- someone must know something!

    1 Reply
    1. re: christina z

      disclaimer - I havent been. In peru, Lots of potato speciaties, lots of unusual spud types (the origin of the spud). roasted guinea pig. do web search - several sites list specialties, i.e. a "Qosqo" site, and Lonely Planet site. Take altitude and health concerns seriously.

    2. Hi, I lived in New York for the past eight years, and ChowHound was my eating bible. BTW I must say I am stunned by the new looks and functionality. Bravo, Jim!

      Now I live in Lima. This is truly a good eats place.

      Cebiche is easy to find. But if you are a true and tried chowhound, this is the place to go:

      Pedro Solari
      Cahuide 995
      12th block (Cuadra 12) Avenida Salaverry

      Tha place is in a nondescript neighborhood and doesn't even have a sign at the door. It has always been extremely discreet. A few decades ago it was the place to go to bribe a judge. Now any Mac Donald will do.

      There are about six tables, no tablecloths at all. You will find an elderly gentleman and an elderly lady. But don't even think they are the owners of a mom and pop restaurant. They just have been working together for decades.

      There is only one dish in the menu. Sole Cebiche - Cebiche de Lenguado-, and don Pedro will prepare it for you when you put your order. For a moment he will disappear into the innards of the restaurant to fillet one of the 3 of 4 soles he buys every day. The beasts are pretty large ones (about 10 pounds each) brought from the sea early in the morning and never ever frozen.

      While he does his disappearing act, the lady will be slicing onion and squeezing lemon. She will be ready by the time don Pedro is back with hisexquisitely filleted lenguado.

      He will ask you how fiery you want your cebiche. If you really like it hot, be sure to ask, because he may believe you are a gringa with taste for blander food. Tell him to make it hot or very hot ("Por favor, hágamelo picante" or "Por favor hágamelo muy picante" are the phrases that will do the trick ) If you don't want it at least minimally hot, we are losing our time. Go somewhere else.

      He will fix your cebiche in a second. It is a very minimalistic affair and you will be tempted to reproduce it once you are back home. Sorry. That won't work. It will be your first Cebiche, and Don Pedro has been in the Cebiche business since he was 16. Now he is a happy octogenarian, although he looks like a man in his early 70's. But if you keep trying at some point you'll getthe proportions and the timing.

      While he finishes his ministrations, the nice lemon and onion lady will present you the cebiche side dishes: some boiled yucca and corn with an aji (Peruvian for chile) sauce. You can order beer, coke or Inka Kola. Go for the beer or the Inka Kola. Spicy and coke don't mix well.

      How can I tell you what to expect? Let's say that Pedro Solari is to Cebiche what Michael Angelo was to ceilings painting. Got it?

      If you are lucky, very lucky, Don Pedro may have another dish. That only happens when one of his customers has asked well in advance for a full lunch. Now, that's got to be an amazing experience. He will cook only for four people or more, customers may express their preferences or phobias (no shrimp, pleeeazze?) but normally they won't be allowed to choose their menu. And they will be charged 100 bucks, American greenbacks, each.
      I have never tried that full menu. But I have tried some of the food, and it is superb.

      The restaurant is open from 12 to 2 or 3 or 4. It will close as soon as they are out of Lenguados. It is usually quite empty, and most of the clientele are long time customers and serious chowhounds. Don't expect to stand in line. The place is never crowded.


      1. It is not fancy or fashionable. Lima in that respect is just like New York. Difara doesn't attract crowds, does he?

      2. It is very expensive for Peruvians. At about US$ per cebiche it is as expensive as in the fanciest restaurant and 2 to 3 times what you would expect to pay elsewhere.

      Now, if you are interested in some other types of Peruvian food and other forms of eating or food buying experience, I'll be very glad to share the little I know. Suffice to say that food wise, I don't miss New York a lot. Oh, I miss bread and bagels and the smell of Hungarian, Italian or German food stores, and theenormous variety of food. But here produce is fresher and greener, tropical fruits ripen in the trees, and there are more than a few superb cooks, both in the hole in the wall and the fancy categories.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ledelboy

        Very exciting review, especially as I'm leaving for Peru in 3 days. But just so you know, there ARE crowds at DiFara's now.

        1. re: AppleSister

          Good for Mr Di Fara. I truly miss his fare.

        2. re: ledelboy

          Is El Carlin in Miraflores still there and serving the wonderful gratin of mushroom, artichoke & potato that I still reminisce about, 14 years later? If so, I will make a beeline for El Carlin when we return.

        3. Phenomenal review ledelboy. Looks like another return visit to Lima is in order :)

          OP: in Bolivia, try Saltena's, the Bolivian equivalent of the empanada. Much jucier (beware your shirt! many shirts get stained quite badly at first bite...a good sign of someone eating their first Saltena), more flavourful, it's filled with a pot-pourri of ingredients, including meat, onions, potatos, vef, hardboiled egg and olives. Otherwise, my experience with Bolivian cuisine was mostly stews, grilled meats, and that was about it.

          Oh, in Peru, i recommend beer with your Ceviche. I like Inka Cola, but i find it sweeter than Coke.

          2 Replies
          1. re: yen

            You're right. Beer's the best. But in the improbable case you are a teetotaler inka cola is far better than coke for Peruvian spicy food. Aji (peruvian chile) and coke yield an unpleasant bitter taste

            1. re: yen

              They say that the person with the most juice on their plate has to pay!

              Definetly try Picante de lengua, or any other. Saice like Sam recommended. And Chuno Phuti which is dehydrated taters cooked and mixed with scrambled eggs and I don't know what else. Classic side, tho for most picantes cuz it cuts the heat.

            2. Eek...for Bolivia, keep expectations LOW! I loved saltenas as well, they were a somewhat juicier version of what I personally think good emapanadas SHOULD taste like, while ACTUAL empanadas in Bolivia are the driest, hardest, blandest things I've ever seen...oddly large, too. Saltenas are almost like a fist-sized pot-pie. So cheap, maybe 50 cents for 2?

              Bolivians seem to really like salt. I thought I did, too. But most of the food was far too salty for me. There was a "kitchen-sink" soup which I had far too often...don't know the real name. It had a chicken broth base, rice, lamb, potatoes, carrots, onions, okra...oh, and salt.

              Don't eat the ice cream. It tastes almost entirely of ice. Because I'm ever hopeful when it comes to ice cream, I tried it THREE times. From a nice hotel restaurant, from a small bakery, it was always bad!

              Even giving up and deciding to eat only American/European-esque food didn't work. Tried pizza 3 times, only once was it good. Pasta once, really awful--tasted like it was made from corn. Sandwiches were iffy--one place in La Paz made big melty ham and cheeses but most places didn't seem to understand.

              On two tours I had good food, though. An ecolodge near Rurrenabaque had cooks trained by a professional chef (not a native Bolivian), although there were occasional missteps. And on the Salar de Uyuni tour, we had a good cook. The "kitchen-sink" soup was part of every dinner, but she always included something special at lunch like tamales or stuffed potatoes (in addition to cold items) and made some decent dinner entrees. I've heard this is not the norm coming from Uyuni, but coming from Tupiza where there are fewer agencies, the food reports are generally good. Even the French couple in our group said that after a week elsewhere in Bolivia, they were finally looking forward to meals again ;).

              Bolivia is much more than food. Eat to survive :).

              1 Reply
              1. re: NancyC

                Wow... I am floored by your comments on Bolivian food. You clearly did not try the right places. You should try the Dumbo Ice Creams. very good on all flavors I have tried except for the Vanilla.

                Also for food, The saltenas are fantastic in Los Canguros. Almost any dish served up by the restaurant Miraflores or the Suiza is going to be good. Miraflores is more traditional while the Suiza serves up more elaborate dishes such as trout and Surubi. My son ate the Surubi on his first trip there and said it was the best meal he has EVER had.

                The Duck at the miraflores is alos very very good. We ate there maybe 10 times over 3 trips and were never disapointed.

                Naturally when you start to get into deep jungles and river towns like Rurrenabaque, your expectations must go down. There simply is not the demand in places like that for great meals.

              2. Ice cream wise, Peru clearly is not Bolivia. Although globalization has lowered the quality of commercial mass produced ice cream, there are still a couple of world class local chains and a few individual "heladerias" well worth the try.

                Larissa and 4D are two names that come to my mind. I can't really tell the difference. Both are really good, and at least one of them will be in every shopping mall. Both have a large selection, about 80% creams and 20% ices with the classic flavors and then some. The San Antonio cafés have a smaller selection, but their ice creams are just as good.

                For visitors, the main attraction will probably be the local, tropical flavors. Passion Fruit (Maracuya) and its subtle and untranslatable cousin Granadilla are among my favorites. Oh and I love Chirimoya!. It is a pity they are not in season.

                Peru is also much more than food, but Peruvians survive to eat.

                1. Saice ("sigh say") in southern Bolivia. Sort of a hash. I lived in Tarija for several years in the 70s. The occasional Germans loved asking for the dish because the name approximates a significant word in that language.

                  1. Dear eaters:

                    I can make some recomendations about bolivian food in the city in which I live: Cochabamba.
                    Saltenyas: places to eat: Los Canguros, Axel, Saltenyas Potosinas.
                    Saussage: (chorizo)Casa de Campo, Tunari
                    Seafood: Puerto Madero
                    Empanadas: Wistu Piku (Twisted Mouth in queshwa!)plaza La Recoleta
                    Ice Cream: Dumbo. Try also the typical ice cream, made with no machines, no artificial flavors in the same place than Wistu PIku (typical flavors: cinamon and milk, but there are others).

                    You can find good food in paseo La Recoleta restaurants, try these dishes: sillpancho (a piece of meat flattened), spicy chicken (picante de pollo), spicy tongue (picante de lengua), pique macho (potatoes + meat), charque (dry meat, the ideal is to eat the llama one), chicharron and fricase (both of them made with pork)

                    Meat: in front of the Stadium (cheap places so they don ́t look like important restaurants precisely but the meat is good)

                    Fast typical food : anti cushos: made with cow hearts (sold by ladies in corners with a kind of small barbecue. It is basically a stick with the meat strung). You can find hamburgers and other kind of sandwiches in Las Tierritas.
                    ------ *----
                    For breakfast in cold places (La Paz, Oruro, Potosi) try appey (api) with pasteles.Appey is kind of heavy sweet liquid and pasteles are like big fried empanadas with cheese inside.

                    Warning: avoid eating in the streets (except anti cushos) and in places that look cheap). It could be dangerous.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: brochitas

                      Thank you for your positive post on the good food of Bolivia. We've visited there three times and always ate very well, especially in Cochabamba. Cochabamba is known throughout Bolivia for its great food and people who love to eat. I will also add another Cochabamba suggestion: Chicharron! Especially Dona Pola's Chicharroneria on Avenida de Americas. I'm pretty sure it's only open on weekends in the afternoon. It's chunks of pork cooked (almost stir fried) in a huge wok-like pan over an open fire. Served with mote (giant white corn) and boiled potatoes. Yum! Also get some of the corn fried in the pork grease. And finish it off with some helado de canela (cinnamon ice).

                      One of our other favorite restaurants in Cochabamba for local specialties is Miraflores. I'm sorry but I can't think of what street it's on, but it's in the area near the stadium. It's only open Thurs-Sun I think, and on Fri nights is full of men playing a local game that looks a lot like yahtzee.

                      Yes, the cheese empanadas can be dry (I don't recall seeing any meat ones), but one of the best empanada-type things is a pukacapas. It's like an empanada and has cheese, but also has spicy onions and an olive in it. Excellent stuff! Chicken saltenas are also excellent when you can find them.

                      I second the suggestion of Dumbo for ice cream. Also Globos, which to me seems the same as Dumbo. Both have excellent ice cream which is more like gelato and almost as good as in Europe. They both also have excellent cakes and other desserts.

                      For lunches, your best bet is to go to a place offering almuerzo. It's a 3 course lunch, with soup, choice of entree, and dessert. Usually for less than $2. There are so many restaurants that offer it, usually with the menu on a chalkboard out front, that you can choose where to eat based on what you like.

                      If you go to La Paz, be sure to try some of the trucha or other fish from Lake Titicaca. Great stuff! We had a very nice meal at the Pena Huari in La Paz, right on the main shopping street above the plaza san francisco. They do a great folkloric dancing show with the dinner. They have the fish there, as well as llama, pork chops, vegetarian, etc.

                      I could go on and on. In summary, there are lots of great food choices in Bolivia. Buen provecho!

                    2. In Bolivia you should try the beef. It is very good and different taste. The Lomo is the best cut. Also try the Picantes. They make it with Chicken, Duck, Tounge, and/or rabbit. In Cochabamba, try the Fricase. It can be pork or chicken (usually pork).

                      Some great restaurants there are The Suiza (on the prado), Miraflores restaurant, and Casa Del Campo (in the Recoleta) more touristy but still ok with English menues).

                      1. Whoever said that said Bolivian food was poor must have been nursed on Big Macs and Pop Tarts. I spent 4 years there and crave the food compared to tasteless New England/ US processed meat, filled w/ chemicals and antibiotics that substitutes for real food.
                        Be careful of saltenas- addictive
                        Chicharon- yummy fried pork
                        Pollo a la broasted- fried chicken, my kids crave it.
                        Roast duck, same price as chicken
                        Lamb stews
                        Soppa de mani- cream of peanut soup
                        Great pork or beef sandwiches
                        BBQ chicken hearts
                        Manihado- rice with charque(dried beef) and a fried egg on top
                        Llama steaks
                        Panchitos- hotdogs
                        Great fried fish and soups
                        Great steaks and beef in general
                        Chunyo- natural freeze dried potatoes and great Fench fries- pappas fritas
                        Parillas-Charcoal grilled food softball hunks of beef or quail on a spit
                        And the coup de grais- a churrasco anything imaginable that can be grilled is, from armadillo to cow's udder with lots of side dishes
                        Wash it all down with great beers and a Dumbo's Chocolate Sundae for dessert!
                        Oh yes, the mid- afternoon cunapes are delicious and very civilized.
                        Even the gov't is more humane than the Bu$h regime.
                        Take me with you!
                        ps I took my own flatware & utensils to markets, ate well & never got sick

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                          No, I was raised on Chinese food and my friend was raised on Korean. No need to turn this into an anti-American thing. We got used to never being satisfied. Everything was strangely bland yet oversalted at the same time. Even the times when the food was good--once in a nice hotel restaurant, and the 2 days we spent in an ecolodge, it was still oversalty.

                          I agreed that I liked saltenas, but I'm not going to eat those for every meal. I disagree about ice cream, I tried it three times and each time it was basically flavored ice (but not in the good way).

                          Granted, we were visiting some very rural small towns, but I've visited similar towns in other countries and found great eats.

                          But since this is bothering you, I will say that OBVIOUSLY I was on vacation while you lived there 4 years. There never would have been time for me to seek out the things you did.

                          1. re: NancyC

                            Sorry, I am really fond of Bolivia(and Korea too, my son teaches there.). Bad humor on my part. If you ever want Satenas, go to Mi Bolivia in Woodside, Queens on 48th ave., near 45th St.
                            ps I agree about the salt, I guess I got usrd to it.

                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                              WHAT? I had no idea that saltenas existed here! I really did like those, as was particularly fond of the "special" kind with egg yolks and raisins. Thanks for the info!

                              I loved Bolivia too, and if I ever get around to doing that longer trip around the world, I would like to be there at least 2 months. Then I'll have a chance to try those parrillas & churrascos for sure. We transited through Tarija on our way to Tupiza, but if we'd had just a bit more time to stay, I'm sure we could have had a good meal there.

                              1. re: NancyC

                                Yes, we bring dozens back to Me. when we visit my mom in NJ. The exact address is 44-10 48th Ave. 718 748 5111.
                                My wife and I are educators and along w/ our natural 4 sons we adopted a 4 year old street kid in Santa Cruz. She is now 20 and studying at UTex, Austin. We are very pro Biolivian (Viva Evo Morales!), so, again, forgive me if I was rude.

                                Now I wish we had Korean food here in Maine!

                                ps I phoned the Bolivian consulate to find out about Mi Bolivia.

                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                  Please...no worries! :) I'm definitely excited to try their saltenas. Any of your above-recommend dishes also available there?

                        2. I know this is a VERY old thread (and this is a very long post), but i'm going to take inspiration from Passadumkeg, and the good suggestion of C Oliver (on the WFD thread on the Home Cooking board) to tell about my eating adventures in La Paz, Bolivia, 2 weeks ago.

                          I was there for 9 days only. Stayed with family and so was treated to a few home cooked meals at different relatives' & friends' homes, along with, of course, restaurants and street food. I'll list these not as a guide to where you can find any particular dish, but just about what foods I like to eat in Bolivia.

                          Sandwich de chola - thinly sliced, slow roasted leg of pork in a salt crust, served on a cheese roll with escabeche and llajwa (Bolivia hot sauce made of locotos (hot pepper), tomatoes and quirquiña (Bolivian coriander - similar to cilantro) - these sandwiches are a street food, and usually sold in a spot where there are several "cholas" (the indigenous woman of the Andes) who have set up kiosks with tables and chairs selling the same product. The pork is super flavorful, not having all the fat and goodness bred out of it as we have done to our poor pigs in the States.
                          Sajta de pollo - a chicken stew made with onions, peas and aji amarillo (yellow chili). A very homey stew served with rice and potatoes or at times, tunta.
                          Tunta - white, freeze-dried potatoes – the white version of chuño – traditionally potatoes that have been left out to freeze up in the Altiplano, are stomped on with bare feet to extract juices, left to sit out in the hot sun all day, then repeat. This practice still exists – saw it with my own eyes up by Lake Titicaca. Tunta looks like snowy white small potatoes, while chuño actually looks like rotten potatoes. Both tunta and chuño have a very pronounced pungency, an almost gamey flavor. They need to be soaked for hours before use, then boiled and crumbled. The tunta I had with the Sajta was cooked with a fresh cheese and egg scrambled in the heat of the potatoes.
                          Chairo – a soup made with chuño, peas, carrots, potatoes, beef and lamb (or chalona – lamb jerky)
                          Trucha – beautiful trout with pink flesh, found all over La Paz but best eaten on Lake Titicaca, fried. I had it in a butter/garlic sauce.
                          Queso umajchu – a cheese dish made with Panela cheese, melted, sautéed onions, habas (fava beans), aji amarillo, and huacataya – “black mint” – an herb that tastes a bit like a mixture of mint and basil. Served with boiled potatoes and choclo – the big kerneled white corn of Bolivia & Peru. This is a dish I’d never had nor heard of before this trip. Fantastic.
                          Salteñas – Similar to an empanada, but so much more. Very juicy inside, with a sweetish dough. The filling is a beef or chicken stew with a slice of hardboiled egg, raisins, peas, and a black olive. They are ubiquitous all over La Paz, in restaurants and on the streets. If you eat nothing else in Bolivia, you must have several.
                          Tucumanas – similar to Salteñas, longer in shape but drier inside and fried. Served with a peanut sauce.
                          Silpancho – steak that has been breaded and pounded very thin, then fried til golden, served with a fried egg on top, and fried potatoes and rice on the side. Slather llajwa all over.
                          Lomo montado – a steak with a fried egg on top. Anything with an egg on top is pretty much wonderful.
                          Ispi – tiny fish dredged in flour and fried crispy, served with lemon and llajwa. Eaten by the bowlful, like popcorn.
                          Llauchas – cheese-stuffed bread – very liquidy, sold on the streets and in bakeries.
                          Cuñapes – another cheesy-bread thing, kind of like an empanada.
                          Api – purple corn drink, hot breakfast drink, best consumed with pastel – which I had for the first time – a giant very puffy fried bread thing, mostly air, sprinkled with powdered sugar, which surprisingly contained a tiny piece of fresh white cheese on the inside!
                          Buñuelos – fried pastry thing drizzled with syrup
                          Sandwich de Chorizo – same as Sandwich de Chola but with a fried sausage or two
                          Lechon – roast pork, heavily salted, with a nice crispy fat cap.
                          Saice – a spic stew of minced beef, peas, onions, cumin, oregano, served with the usual suspects of rice and potatoes
                          Granadilla – a delightful fruit, mucilaginous, tart – you crack open the semi-hard shell (resembles a dried up orange) and swallow the pulp and seeds whole.
                          Lima – like a cross between an orange and a grapefruit, tarter than U.S. grapefruits.
                          Pacay – a new fruit for me – a large green pod-like thing – bigger than a fava bean pod, which you crack or slice open, and suck on the sweet, cottony-wrapped seeds.
                          Stege liverwurst – like BUTTER.
                          Nata – the cream at the top of milk, comes canned, a Nestle’s product, delicious on bread.
                          Habas – favas, served boiled, you peel each one and pop the bean into your mouth, part of Plato Paceño. Also had them served with a crumbled queso fresco as a starter.
                          Plato Paceño – Habas, boiled potatoes, boiled choclo, fried white cheese, copious amounts of llajwa.
                          Llama – The last time I was in Bolivia, I never saw llama on the menu. Now it’s everywhere. Sad for those beautiful animals, but man if it wasn’t the tastiest, most tender and juiciest steak I’ve ever had.
                          Empanadas – need no explanation.
                          Anticuchos with spicy peanut sauce – Actually originated in Peru. Usually a street food, it’s thin slices of marinated beef heart (I believe it’s typically a tarragon vinegar marinade, but not sure), charcoal grilled, then napped with a spicy peanut sauce, and served with boiled potatoes. Incredibly flavorful and tender. I could eat this every day.
                          Bolivian wine from Tarifa region – has won some reknown, very tasty cabs.
                          Huminta – somewhat like a tamale, but corn-ier.
                          Charque-kan – the origin of jerky – beef or llama, typically in thin strips, and tho they’re dry like our jerkey, they have a good fatty taste to them.
                          Paceña – the national beer. Refreshing.
                          Chirimoya – the big green, armadillo-like fruit that tastes like custard. Expensive to buy here, on every corner in La Paz for pennies.

                          So yes, there are a lot of amazingly varied and delicious food choices in Bolivia. Pictures of some of them attached.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mariacarmen

                            Hubba! Hubba! Hubba! It's time I got back to Bolivia!!! My Cruzian favorites: sopa de mani or peanut soup and a lowlands churrasco.

                            1. re: mariacarmen

                              Now I'm so hungry for comida tipica Boliviana! Thanks for the great list of favorites and the beautiful photos.