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Sep 30, 1998 07:41 AM

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.