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Sep 22, 2006 07:20 PM

Bolivian Food - what & where - NY, DC, SF, Chicago?

I was reading the Chow tour and there is a report about Bolivian food.

And I thought, huh, don't hear much about Bolivian food. Looking through Chowhound and on the web it seems most of the restaurants are in the Washington and New York area.

This link says Chicago has a Bolivian population, but there is only one recent mention (with no response) to a Cuban joint in Chicago serving great Bolivian on Sunday.

We do have two Bolivian restaurants that I've so far uncovered in San Francisco and I want to give them a spin. What is good Bolivian food and what should I order?

Some Bolivian food info:

Bolivian foods in Bolivian (or whatever), but nice pictures with recipes.

A list of typical Bolivian dishes ... I don't suppose anyone in the US serves Pirana soup ... there's sort of some sort of gastronimic karma to that dish if you think about it.

More recipes ... in English

Overview and recipes ... cinnamon sorbet ... yum

General overview of Bolivian Cuisine

Use small text on this one:

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  1. Pena Pachamama is a Bolivian restaurant in San Francisco--the food's very nice (some dishes aren't as great, but all over it's comfort food), and they have world music, so the atmosphere is great.

    Pacha Pollo is a very tasty spiced chicken, but my favorites are the tapas plates--meatballs, yucca frites, and saltenas. Don't miss the saltenas!

    2 Replies
    1. re: MuppetGrrl

      Thanks for the more detailed report on the San Francisco board. The reason I posted here was for the general questions not specific to SF. But in the sense of the where question on this post, it doesn't seem SF is a hotbed of Bolivian food.

      The two restaurants I've found so far are more upscale it seems to me.

      Is music a requisite at Bolivian restaurants? Both Bay area restaurants have live music and the podcast had some lively music going on in the background.

      1. re: rworange

        I don't know, but it certainly enhances the atmosphere. The idea of a "pena" is that it's a "gathering place"--basically, a place where everyone gets down and shares in the good fun.

        And Pena Pachamama is NOT upscale.

    2. Many of the foods listed on the bolivianet site are not Bolivian. Included are dishes from neighboring Argentina and Peru. Of their listing, I would recommend the lagua de choclo, aji de lengua, and the pie de requeson.

      1. Sigh ... two hour editing limit. Have to squeeze my virtual chowhounding between work breaks.

        Found this great ... GREAT!!! ... article that the Washington Post did on saltenas in 2001 - The Saltena Circuit by Douglas Hanks III.

        While it is about the DC area restaurants, it has some great background stuff about Bolivian cuisine like ...

        "A juicier version of a Spanish empanada, saltenas are said to be named after a woman who brought them to Bolivia from the Argentine region of Salta about 100 years ago. "

        It says that making saltenas is time-consuming and messy so Bolivians would rather buy them than make them. Calf leg marrow is used for the gelatin in the filling and it has to be left to congeal after it is boiled ... ok, but I still want to try some.

        I think the llama testicle drink mentioned in the Chow tour is referenced here and called mocochinchi. Sounds like the same thing.

        13 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          "Moco chinchi" translates to "chinchi snot", where chinchi is a kind of chile pepper.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            Just used an online quechua to spanish dictionary and found this MUQU CHINCHI: PASA DE DURAZNO. This basically translates as dried peach! Not nearly as gross as chili snot but a more accurate translation i think.

            1. re: bolivianita

              Thank you for your effort. I like peaches. The other stuff, not so much.

          2. re: rworange

            Mocochinchi is a drink made with dried peaches and cinnamon not llama testicles. I have never heard of any drink made with this but I'm going to look it up and find out more.

            1. re: bolivianita

              Just looked at the chow tour and saw that pic. It does look like a testicle. Ew. I'm glad that there is no drink actually made with testicles. It would take a lot of balls to drink that!.

              1. re: bolivianita

                No it was just a menu mistake. Here's the chow article.

                Instead of listing it as refresco de duranzo it was listed as refresco de durazno. Anyone who orders it under that name gets credit for having ... well.

                So, is Mocochinchi the same as refresco de durannzo?

                1. re: rworange

                  Well, "durazno" is Spanish for "peach", so it should have been "refresco de durazno".

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    That's right. I was just reversing it because I thought there was a missspelling. Then this drink is SUPPOSED to be called llama testicles? Yum.

                    Will have to go back and look at the article again when I have time.

                    1. re: rworange


                      I would assume it's supposed to be called "peach drink", which is exactly what "refresco de durazno" is... now, I'm no speaker of Bolivian Spanish, but I've never heard the word "duranzo" except as a misreading of "durazno".

                      In Mexico, BTW, that would be called "agua fresca de durazno".

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        OK, this was getting me crazy. Here's what the blog about it says...

                        "To drink, I got a phenomenally unrefreshing glass of refresco de durazno, a tepid, syrupy sweet beverage clobbered with countless tablespoons of cinnamon and containing what appears to be a desiccated llama testicle (actually a dried peach) lying sunken on the bottom."

                        So I thought ... what the heck? ... where did I get that other stuff from ... so I re-listened to the pod cast which is just there anyway for atmosphere and what the podcast says is

                        "The peach thing is called refresco de durazno. Which I think it might be a mispelling of duranzo. Llama testicle is the analogy"

                        Not knowing the Spanish for testicle, I thought that's what that reference to the mispelling might be about. Never mind. It just appears to be creative writing.

                      2. re: rworange

                        Forget about the testicles it has nothing to do with testicles. Its just a drink made with dried peach.

                        1. re: bolivianita

                          I love this site..hehe
                          Mocochinchi is exactly dried peaches, in case anyone is still wondering. I just wanted to add that it is also called "Refresco de quisa" (or kisa or something like that...I dont speak aymara or quechua)

                          mocochinchi = refresco de quisa = dried peaches juice

                  2. re: bolivianita

                    And it is a terrific drink by the way.

                2. I didn't read your links, but the story of saltenas is women bringing them for soldiers to eat out in the field or for their husbands to take for lunch. Anyway, they differ from empanadas in several key ways:

                  they are always football shaped, the pastry is a hard shell on the outside, the inside is more soup than stew, so should be liquidy. The pastry is softened inside by the soup and somewhat bready. Like most foods, I like mine fresh and hot. Should be difficult to eat without getting it all over you. Need a spoon and bowl for the better ones.

                  The next most important item of Bolivian food is humintas. These are pyramid-shaped corn cakes stuffed with cheese and wrapped in corn husks. A cousin of the arepa.

                  Both of the above items will send you into bliss if done properly.

                  Other items of interest:
                  charque is a dried beef dish, cousin of carne deshilada or shredded beef. Pique de macho is a meat stew with hot dogs thrown in case you need extra meat.

                  Weekend feasting seems to be a key component of Bolivian restaurants in DC. Most places will have very limited menus during the week, usually several different kinds of steak, some kind of milanese (false conejo), and some kind of whole deep fried fish. The weekend platters are enormous and very starchy. Maybe 4/5 kinds of starch including: rice, potatoes, pasta, giant corn, plantains - all on one platter.

                  See photos below of a Chowhound gathering from last Spring. The first photo is chicken, the second rabbit, the third is charque, the fourth is soup de mani (peanuts with french fries floating on top and some pasta on the bottom for good measure, and finally, souse.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Steve

                    Thanks so much, Steve, for what to expect from a good saltena. After looking at the Post article, I'm going to check out some of the Bolivian links on the Washington board ... not that I plan to be there soon, but you guys seem to have more of it and I want to get a feel for what that food is like.

                    It's kind of cool to me to learn about different sections of the country that might have unexpected cuisines. Everybody knows about, say, Cuban in Florida, but there are other little ethnic pockets out there.

                    The SF Bay Area is getting an increasing Brazilian population. Like the Bolivians mentioned in the Post article, the food is usually on menus of other types of restaurants, most notibly Italian pizza joints. Things are just starting to expand with some juice & snack bars and markets.

                  2. OK, I'm just not letting this Bolivian thing go. For some reason I find it fascinating. I found this site by someone who stayed with a family in La Paz for a while and wrote about it including eating and shopping.

                    This is the first report, but clicking on the index link at the end will take you to seven additonal reports. She writes about weekend markets and family meals,


                    For $1.50 she had Sillpancho "a Quechua word - sillpa means thin, and pancho means wide ... The dish consisted of meat pounded flat (thin) and as wide as a large plate. Underneath the meat were rice and fried potatoes ... while on top of the meat was a fried egg and a pile of salsa."

                    Very cool links to photos that also include food photos. Especially interesting are the street food vendors in installment 5 (which has the log-in and password to view the photos).

                    Anyway interesting read about day to day life and eats in Bolivia. Will be interesting to see the limited dishes that are available outside of that country when I do my limited Bolivian food crawl.

                    Hmmm ... "garapina which is Cliza mixed with cinnamon ice cream" I hope someone has something like that here ... or at least Bolivian cinnamon ice cream.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: rworange

                      The meat in silpancho is usually pounded with breadcrumbs and maybe a few other ingredients (minced onions)to make a kind of rubbery milanese. Also, saltenas at most places are baked early in the day: you won't easily find these at dinner time. They are best bought early.

                      1. re: Steve

                        If the silpancho you ate or made was rubbery then it was not made properly. Silpancho meat is extremely tender and delicious.

                        1. re: Noly

                          I am sure you are right about that. Still looking for good silpancho.

                          This is a link for a discussion about Saltenas. It refers to another thread on the DC Board as well which I think is interesting.