Vegetarian Food Recommendations in Peru and Bolivia
I'll be in Peru and Bolivia for about 3 weeks in late May to early June. More specifically, I'll be in Lima, Sacred Valley, Lake Titicaca, La Paz, Salar de Uyuni, and someplace in between La Paz and the Salar (haven't mapped out my plans exactly in Bolivia).
As a lacto-ovo vegetarian, what are some good things for me to eat? Is Astrid y Gaston worth it for a vegetarian (no fish!) to visit? How about in the chifas?
Also, what do you recommend buying in the food markets? I've been dreaming about the tropical fruits...may I eat them safely? Squeezed into shakes?
Any good/unique food items to bring back? Dried heirloom beans? Quinoa? Salt from Uyuni?
Vegetarian dining isn't big in either country, and honestly, if you're strict about it, you're going to find it difficult - bits of meat or fish for flavor, meat stocks in soups, that sort of thing. The chifas (the Peruvian contraction of the Chinese "chi fan", or restaurant) are simply local casual spots that serve up mostly Chinese food, slightly different just due to availability of ingredients. Problem is, without a vegetarian tradition locally, you get all that stuff like "oh, we just put a little shrimp paste in for flavor" or find that things are made with chicken stock and such. While I haven't eaten at Astrid y Gaston, I'd guess if you let them know in advance that you're vegetarian they could have some options for you - I don't recall much on their menu when I looked at it in front of their restaurant being vegetarian friendly. And that's probably the best advice on making any reservations in either country - ask upfront or when you make a reservation if they can accommodate you and let them know you really don't eat those things.
We regularly ate fruits and vegetables from the markets, simply washing them if they weren't something that was being peeled.
As to bringing stuff back, I guess it depends where you live and if those things are already available where you live - keeping in mind that depending on where that it, they might be confiscated on re-entry. I didn't see anything there that wasn't available to me when I lived in NYC, except maybe some alpaca jerky, but that's NYC for you...