So yes I had guinea pig, not as part of the tour and I’ll come on to that later. The tour surely counts as my most awkward date ever, although it wasn’t an actual date as I had paid to go on a tour, but the problem was no one else showed up. I suppose I should really look on the bright side as I was given a private tour at the cost of a group tour but really one of the things you want to do on a group tour is meet people. And to be honest with no vested interest in one another by the time we got to the fifth restaurant and had already discussed Bolivian politics to the extent that we could both understand there was very little left to say. Besides that it was pushing 9:45 and I think my guide wanted to go home so she could concentrate on her university studies.
That aside the tour is actually really enjoyable and does give you an insight into Bolivian cuisine. I’m not 100% sure why I did this as I’d been in the country for 5 weeks at this point eating local food but Gary, Mike and I did this in Hanoi and it led to us being more adventurous with our choices. As I was about to start travelling again I suppose I wanted to be given more confidence. If I go to a Bolivian place for lunch I can get a menu for 10-20bs, I might get food poisoning mind as there is 0 health and safety requirements here. As a quick aside one Bolivian friend told me she has had salmonella poisoning 6 times in her life BUT it’s not good business to poison people and I suppose once word gets around people don’t eat there. So rule number 1 is only go to places where you can see others eating, ideally where you can see the actual food being served. Although don’t do what Gary did in Vietnam where he saw something he liked on another table, found out what it was and then ordered us all raw chicken that we had to cook at the table! On this occasion the waiter was so worried he took it to the kitchen for an extra fry.
Anyways I’ve digressed. You can get a lunch menu for 10-20 bs which is generally soup followed by a meal. Remember Bolivians tend to have their main meal at lunch with a snack in the evening. The only problem with this is the main meals tend to be meat, sauce and rice, which is great. Accompanied with salad, which I can’t eat and neither should you as you don’t know where it was washed, one or more of the 400 varieties of potato’s, boiled, bland as anything, yuk and giant sweet corn that I also don’t like. Having said this I generally find food here delicious. Also in La Paz there is a wide variety of international food cooked amazingly but is sadly much more expensive. If you want really good food my tip is to pop to Sopocatchi or down to San Miguel in Zona Sur. Which brings me on to the other reason as to why I’m writing this special post about food. Normally I’d just include the pics along with the location but I’ve stayed here for 6 weeks and I didn’t get any gourmet food on the hikes so here it is instead. Oh, one last thing. Burger King is delicious here!
Red Hat Tour
I may have already put you off the tour but I honestly don’t mean to. I’ve been told it varies in size massively and there is no particular day of the week where you are likely to get a bigger group. I suspect later in the week and weekends is better but who knows. I went on a Tuesday and the night before there were 10 people on the tour. Maybe find out when I’m planning to go and book a different night.
We met, i can’t remember my guides name, outside San Francisco church at 6pm. After establishing that it was just me we headed over to Mercado Lanza, which you can see from the square. If you’ve done the free walking tour you will be used to this, if not it’s worth checking out. Built in 2006 there are a huge variety of stores selling all sorts but lots of food worth trying too.
One thing that is really good value in the market is fruit juice. This is something Bolivians have for breakfast and you can chooses the fruits, decide if you want leche or azúcar added or el natural. The one I was given has a little of all the fruits and some vitamins. I asked for a little sugar, just because you need something to spice it up. I particularly enjoyed the sugar puff esq croutons on the top.
Next up was another little restaurant in the market where I had Api, which is a drink made from purple maize, cinnamon, water and sugar, served hot. It’s apparently a breakfast drink but there were lots of people enjoying it this evening. For me this was accompanied by a pastel de api, which you can see in the photo below. It’s a very light pastry which you can add a dusting of icing sugar and delicious.
With the starter out of the way we headed to the next restaurant for the main course. We shared a bottle of Huari and tried a pork based dish (I can’t find the name so maybe someone can help me out?) which includes rice, corn, two types of potatoes and a delicious sauce.
We went to another restaurant close by, this time it was Dutch owned but they serve authentic food apparently. I got to try my first Singani, which is very similar to the Pisco that is made in Peru and Chile. This was similar to a Pisco sour but you can drink it with Sprit or ginger ale and lemon I am told.
I also had a soup that it appears I have both forgotten to photograph or remember anything about. It’s probably because I love soup and ate it quickly and one of the best things about Bolivian quinine is the soups. Hearty and delicious and normally served as a starter as part of an almuerzo menu it’s the perfect thing to keep you warm in the cold altitude of La Paz.
Next up on the same restaurant was a Pique a lo Macho, which is famous from Cochabamba, a town I am about to visit. I was told this was invented by drunks, all the best things are, who were looking for food late at night, well early in the morning, and the food sellers that were open at this time threw all this together. It’s delicious with chicken, sausage, egg, tomato and other greens with what feels like a soy based sauce. It’s a must try.
Last up was dessert and we went to a cafe that is obviously aimed at tourists. We had a glass of red and between the famous regions on Argentina and Chile, Bolivia actually makes some really good wine that is very worthy of your attention, especially as it’s cheaper. The dessert was brownie which again was delicious and after I said goodbye to my guide, who was happy to leave and went home.
Other things I’ve eaten
So before I arrived in Bolivia I was told by other travellers that all the food was fried and boring. I’ve not been all over Bolivia but this is certainly not my experience. Then again I did nearly move here on the basis that at the Mega Center, the mall and cinema, all the food stalls were burgers, ice cream and fried chicken. I had died and gone to heaven.
There is plenty of local food all over La Paz but if you are visiting Vally de la Luna there is a lot of local food to be had in Mallasa, especially at the weekend. If you walk south then you can also visit the zoo and outside are lots of street restaurants serving local food. I tried a few dishes here:
Santa de Pollo
I also had a BBQ dish of chicken and chorizo, there is a lot of BBQ chicken in Mallasa which I’ll come in to later.
And lastly I went for almuerzo offer of soup and Milinesa de Pollo. I’ve also included an example menu so you can look up what types of food are on offer, but you can find these anywhere.
Staying with Mallasa there is a restaurant that has an Asian flavour but seems to mostly cook all kinds of chicken. I am never one to pass up the opportunity of noodles so that ms what I had. If you want to try then from the south end of the town walk north and it’s the first restaurant on your left, of course I’ve forgotten the name, but it’s white and has a picture menu outside. I particularly liked the added touch of fries and you get these with a lot of dishes it seems.
I’ve mentioned before that Mallasa comes alive at the weekend so if you can try and visit on a Saturday or Sunday and you will find much more variety. One afternoon when I was walking through I discovered there was a lot of BBQ chicken. So this got added to my list. There are a lot of places you can try this and it’s called Pollo a la Leña. We took the lunch menu for 18bs and had the peanut soup.
Another fun place in zona sur is the MegaCentre. It’s a mall that has a women driving around on a train, she kinda doesn’t really care where it goes so watch yourself. I actually am on her side. As much as I’d love to drive a train around a mall for a living once the fun wore off I’d use it to scare the customers and I’d probably be a worse driver as I can imagine being hungover for most of the mornings.
There is also a really modern cinema and a tonne of bars and restaurants. And of course a mall wouldn’t be complete without a food court, which to my delight is 90% fried chicken. When I die I want my ashes to be scattered here assuming it doesn’t get into peoples food. I wouldn’t want to be a health and safer risk.
I had a few meals in the different places here. First up is this chicken with ham and cheese, yes I’ve forgotten the name but the main reason this has taken so long to write is I’ve forgotten the name of all the dishes. Hopefully someone will tell me. We also tried another Bolivian dish which is sausage chips and sauce. It’s huge and good.This was at a popular bar called The Dubliner, which is sort of an Irish Bar as much as any of the bars around the world can be considered a Irish outside of Ireland. Anayas the food is good, there are a lot of drinks on offer and on a Thursday it’s open until 4am and there is a band. Go there and enjoy.
Next up from the Mega centre is Factory. They have a restaurant and also a kiosk in the food court which is a little cheaper. I tried both having a great burger and chicken burger-obviously this was at different times.
We went to the Beer Garden to watch the England game. Try server a huge variety of food but obviously I went for the burger.
There are also a whole load of other dishes including Asian and an amazing pork sandwich at various places but I’m sure you want to see the pictures of the Guinea Pigs.
When I saw in the book of things to do that one of the local dishes was guinea pig I wanted to try it. I’ve had a slightly weird obsession as when I was younger my father used to say that in South America they ate them and the pigs used to run around restaurants, where you could pick one and they would serve it up. Well this isn’t true and also most the restaurants don’t have doors or walls so that would be impractical.
For David’s leaving so we decided to try it. I’ll let the pictures speak form themselves, it wasn’t horrible but was also not my favourite dish either. There is a lot of skin!
Also in San Miguel there are tonnes of restaurants worth trying and lots of coffee shops serving amazing things. Especially the chocolate bar I got to melt in hot milk. I’m still not sure how I’m losing weight here.
Any trip to La Paz is not complete without visiting Copacabana. Looking like a cheap chicken shop it’s Bolivia’s answer to KFC and quite frankly the cornel should hang his head in shame because it kicks it’s ass! Especially the special sauce. Give it a go, there are several at teleférico stations.
Lastly we did have one night out a Tapas bar in Sopocachi called Hallwrights. Here I had the best cheese and jam I’ve had in South America so if you are looking for a cheese fix I’d recommend.