“Be Careful in Bolivia with the food”
“You’re definitely going to have stomach problems”
“I spent a week in the toilet”
“The food in Bolivia is horrible!”
Above are just some examples of what I heard from other travelers while I was making my way up to Bolivia. I was convinced that I was going to have stomach problems and body fluids shooting out from both ends and decided to make peace with what I thought was going to happen. The only thing I refused to accept was that the food was questionable as I had noticed that some people I have previously met visited the country and didn’t even try the local cuisine. After asking someone what the food was like in Bolivia and receiving a response that included that the pizza is terrible, I slapped my hand onto my forehead and I made it my goal to see what the food is really like in Bolivia.
In fact, Bolivia is crazy cheap and that goes for the food too! My first stop in Boliviawas La Paz, and as per usual getting used to a new currency takes a bit of time. On my first night in my hostel I had met some guys who wanted to go out to eat. One of them wanted to try out a place that was suggested to him and I thought sure why not.
Now when the menu came I couldn’t help but look at the set of choices left to right and up and down; although I still wasn’t accustomed to the currency, it just felt expensive. We decided to get a shared platter of mixed meats between the 6 of us, which ended we couldn’t even finish! The bill came to roughly 50 Bolivianos per person and in my head I was screaming and cursing 50 fricken Bolivianos (I later learned 50 Bolivians was equivalent to $7). It wasn’t a lot when you think about it but it wasn’t as economical as I was expecting from Bolivia. Plus mixed meat isn’t exactly typical Bolivian food.
The next day I went to Mercado Lanza, (they do great fruit juices there). I ventured up to the second floor and on both sides there were mini restaurants serving up almuerzo (lunch). I randomly picked one of the restaurants, walked in and grabbed myself some lunch. Most restaurants in Bolivia have a menu of the day where you receive a starter (the soup of the day) and a couple of options for a main dish.
I got my soup and my main for 7 Bolivianos,JUST UNDER $1!!!
Walking in Mercado Lanza
I spent 4 days in La Paz and I went to Mercado Lanza everyday to get almuerzo, I always left absolutely full and with not even a slight dent in my pocket.
food from Mercado Lanza
Now in every city there’s a Mercado, where you can buy fresh fruits and veggies, scurmptious fruit juices and of course delicious and cheap food. However, as great as these markets are for me it was always about the street foods which I’ve renamed street mama.
I met a friend in Sucre and quickly found out that just like me she was a big foodie that was always up to experiment the local cuisine. One day we went looking for inexpensive street food and after taking a wrong turn, we ended up in the middle of a street market. The first thing we noticed was a woman with a pot and our eye widened. We inched closer to see what she had cooking and ordered ourselves a plate. We shared a platter of potatoes, strips of tripe covered in a type of sauce for a mere 5 Bolivianos. We sat on a makeshift stool next to someone fixing his car as we devoured every morsel of the delicious food.
We walked around looking for more Cholitas surrounded by pots; we had a full day eating everything from, Papa rellenas, Sopa de Fideo, meat, meat and more meat. We left so full unable to walk and had spent altogether no more than 25 Bolivianos ($3.50).
Since that day in SucreI never turned back and throughout my travels in BoliviaI always sought out a woman surrounded by pots. Some people may call this adventurous but my rational is simple: why eat European food for more when I can get local delectable food for practically nothing?
From Potosi to Cochabamba to Uyuni, Street Food Mamas in Bolivia are everywhere and if you aren’t that “adventurous” at least try eating in one of the mercados!!
Guest Post: Stephanie Badaru