I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lima: Pork and more Politically Incorrect food!

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: I can stop after eating one Pringle. I cannot however, stop eating after one pork sandwich

The adventure continues as I finally arrived in Lima, well, returned to Lima, I mean I did spend a lovely evening in the Lima Airport Food Court. I was originally planning to visit a ceviche place but due to Peruvian Air being delayed, I got in later than I wanted. I was hungry and I did not want to waste time and wanted something eat. So when I hired car driver came to pick me up, I asked him to take me to a place that had chicharrons. This is how the conversation went down (translated in English to hide my embarrassing and pitiful High School Spanish:

Me: Excuse me, I have a question, do you like eating chicharrons?

Taxi Driver: Yes I do.

Me: Do you have a favorite place?

Taxi Driver: Yes. Wait…do you want to go eat chicharrons?

Me: Yes.

Taxi Driver: let me get this straight, you want to go to the hotel first then get chicharrons, or chicharrons then hotel?

Me; Chicharrons. Now. 

Sandwich Porn after Jump!

I see the words torta and chicharron, I am getting it

And this is how I ended up eating my first meal or thing in Lima, a chicharron sandwich. The taxi driver told me never in the fifteen years he has been driving taxis, has he ever had a request like this before. I guess he never met hungry weird people like me. Unfortunately for me, it was a bit harder to find an open chicharron place, they are not open in the late afternoon given that is a morning breakfast fare, but fortunately we were able to scramble into a respectable chicharron joint and get me a sandwich. I of course got a Inka Cola to go with it. The place was located in Miraflores on the La Universidad. This was a major strip and had other chicharron places however, none had cute pictures of pigs on their signs!
The taxi driver, who was so kind to take me to this place, even though hired ate with me and got what I got. After have an awkward broken conversation in Spanish and me wondering what was going in the Spanish Soap Opera that was blaring on the television, out came my sandwich in all its glory. This style of chicharron is a different than the deep fried goodness I had in Cusco. The Chicharron was the same cut, which was pork belly but instead of deep frying it, it is slow roasted. Although I am a connoisseur of the art of frying arts, slow roasted anything is always a good thing. 
The sandwich is simply majestic and is the epitome of good food. What was so great about it? It was simple. Simple food=good food. The sandwich was just bread and pork. It had a side of sweet potato chips and a plate of pickled red onions and chilies. There was no lettuce, tomatoes mayo and weird other condiments, it was just the pork in all its glory and a huge roll that is good but a vehicle to get the pork into your mouth and soak up the sweating pork juices. The pork was the main event, the royal rumble, the cage match and I was there to enjoy it. 

To say that I was satisfied was an understatement. Layers of fat and meat snuggled inside a nice crusty and pillow-soft roll soaking up the excess juices. The only way that I could be happier with this is if I had two of these sandwiches! The pickled red onions and peppers were a good addition on to every couple of bites cutting the richness and the sweet potato slices were a pleasantly sweet and had a slightest bite to them. Inka Cola, the ever popular soft drink in Peru was a perfect pairing making this a great impromptu meal. 
Hot, crispy Churros
After my quick detour I checked in and after a quick clean up and change, I went back down to Miraflores to the area of Parque Kennedy. I read about this café/cafeteria called café Manolo and it was that awkward time too early for a dinner and too late to eat lunch so decided to go and hang out there and help myself to their specialty, hot chocolate and churros. My first churro I had was actually in elementary school for lunch. It was somehow part of the school meal and I just remember I liked it and it appealed to me at first because it sounded so fun. Churro. Say it. It’s a fun word and anything that sounds fun taste good…usually. The churros that I was introduced to as a kid was a cold, sugar coated dough stick with an apple filling. To a little fat Asian kid that was prohibited anything that was sugar coated thought he was in heaven and loved it and looking back now that thing was in short: “blah”. That describes it and looking back again, not worth the time I traded a bag of cheesy popcorn for one. I had other churros since then and they were always just average and unless it was just made, stale. It was finally here at Café Manolo, I finally had a good churro and understood why they are a staple sweet in Latin America.
Manolo is stuck in a romanticized time warp, a typecast setting for a 1950s luncheonette or diner. The waiters donned black slacks and white shirts with black bow ties and the waitresses, black skirts and white blouses. Service was prompt and efficient but did not brush the feeling that you were in a European café. I sat at the counter and the oldest waitress, practically ordered for me, profiled this gringo chino and right after I ordered the hot chocolate, ordered me, and basically told me that I was getting a side of churros with that. She would have been perfect in any sidecar diner via 1950s. 
Hot Chocolate and Churros = Happiness
The hot chocolate was no Swiss Mix and was thick and coated your mouth, perfect consistency for dipping churros. A quick sip sent an overwhelming feeling of comfort and warmth down the body. It was full on cocoa and the slight sweetness and bitterness made you know that what ever problems you have or worries, it was going to be ok. The churros were being pumped out constantly so they arrived with an oily and generous sprinkle of sugar with a hint of cinnamon. The churros were not like any I have eaten previously. The churro had some give but the exterior was crispy and airy interior crevices creating a delicate treat. The lightness of the churro demanded it be treated like a lady and forced you to eat and handle it like glass. The oiliness of the churro was a perfect match with the hot chocolate, creating magical slurry of chocolate, oil, dough with every bite. Dipping churros in chocolate was a treat that forces you to breathe, relax and take the world in.
Filled with chocolate and sugar coated oil fried dough, I felt empowered, like Harvey Birdman flying towards the sun. I walked to the coast and back to the Park and decided what better way to you know, empower my soul than with some street cart food? I found the turrones guy and proceeded to decimate a sauve turrone, but more on street food in a later post.

I was not in the mood to eat at a restaurant so I decided to just snack and eat whatever I could find. I found a no named empanada place and there was bit of a crowd, so naturally I went over and got me an empanada. The empanadas I had here were baked and I went with what I considered my standard, the carne which is basically ground beef. 

All the empanadas I have had so far have been great, they are like hand grenades of meat. Instead of packed full of explosives and shrapnel, it is packed with beef and onions and served with a wedge of lime this was a good…2nd? 3rd course tasting? Who knows, I just know it tasted oh so good. 

Simple and good

Carne Empanda- filling with beef goodness
In the main area of Parque de Kennedy is a sandwich shop that is constantly combating waves and waves of people called La Lucha. La Lucha had an open kitchen and not only did they have a proud display of roasted meats and piles of crusty rolls, it had the sweet aroma of roasting meats perfuming onto the street. 

Caught in a trance of sudden meat craving, I ordered a lechon sandwich and for shits and giggles, got a chocolate milkshake. The sandwiches and the meat are cut and made to order so there was no meat or sandwiches dying under a heat lamp, making me even more excited about the sandwich I was about to get. The sandwich finally came and like the chicharron sandwich from earlier, was simple and delicious. 
Lechon Torta- pig in a different form
The sandwich comprised of a crusty roll with a more than generous mound of juicy lechon. This differed from the chicharron from earlier the fact that it came from the shoulder and it was pulled pieces. Unlike pulled pork we see in South Barbecue in which the meat is almost a stewed and fine shredded consistency, this was nice size chunks, nugget like ensuring a perfect bite.
Rolls and fresh roast meats? need I say more?

For any normal man, two pork sandwiches would have been enough for anyone. Then again, I am no normal man. Deciding to walk about the Park itself, there were carts selling food ranging from popcorn to churros, however there was a sandwich cart and like a snake charmer, I was memorized by the sounds and smells of meat cooking. 

Although I they had other meat options like chicken and beef, I was going for the trifecta and got the lechon. The meat was already pre-cooked and sliced and piled all along a flat top griddle like a protein fortress. The lady takes a good heaping pile of meat and throws it on the flat top, to warm it up. Although I like simplicity, there was a range of condiments that were too hard to pass up and I got it with a generous dose of a aji mayonnaise sauce and a dollop of salsa criolla (I need some vegetables, onions count!). The sandwich, although the meat was pre-cooked and dosed heavily in sauce was delightful.

Completing the pork sandwich trifecta
The slices were uneven, with bits of skin refusing to give and pockets of gelatinous pork fat exploding all the while I am desperately wiping my mouth and my wrists, trying to combat the flow of runny mayo and pork meat secretions with one measly napkin but I am enjoying every minute (well, seconds because that thing didn’t last that long) of it

After walking around and completing a pork sandwich trifecta, I guess I needed to change it up a bit and clean up so I walked into the South American version of Carvel. Inside was a artificial park look complete with a gazebo as I would describe it as, “ghetto). After cleaning myself off, I looked at the menu which was complete with pictures and I had a moment of surprised political incorrectness. The ice cream parlor had a section for kids in which sundaes were created to look like animals, characters and such and it was cut and all and while looking through it, I had to do a double take on this:

It is a sundae called the Chinito which as you can see, is suppose to look like a Mr. Magoo era characterization of a Chinese person, complete with a Fu Manchu! I was not offended; I just found it insanely hilarious. As I stood there laughing,I noticed the other sundae offering next to it which was the Chinta Panda, which is exactly how it sounds. This one only bordered on some political incorrectness so I proceed to dig up some Soles and get me a Chinita Panda.

I wanted to order the Chinito, but I am sure that I would surely get my race card taken away, if it had not been taken already. After getting a weird look from the ice cream maker, because he was probably wondering both why is this gringo chino ordering a children ice cream sundae and why is he laughing hysterically I sat down and ate my Chinita Panda. I have to say, it looks like a panda. There is not much to say except it tasted better than Carvel ice cream. Full of pork and political incorrectness, I headed out to sleep of my pork drunkenness. Up next, last day in Peru!

Goddamn, it looks like a Panda. Taste like...Carvel but better!

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