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

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Peru: Assume the standing postion, Street Food Part II

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: You can not go wrong with Purple Drink...unless it is washed in a dirty water bucket

Not everything that I ate was completely cavity inducing. I did not however have a savory empanada that was a complete failure. My empanada catalyst was a carne filled, composed of ground beef and onions which in my eyes a standby and always had a good dose of cumin in them, bringing a great earthiness. Empanadas are a staple in Latin American cuisine but vary from country and region.

Mainly a snack, but eating one or two of these can easily be a meal. Most empanadas that I have encountered before coming to Peru were like over-fried dumplings filling sparingly. However the empanadas in Peru are baked and pack a curb stomping punch. Although I am a fan of basically anything fried, I like the baked empanadas better. The exterior is tender and is not dry at all and is a perfect blanket for the meaty filling. 

Speaking of meat, I could not leave Peru without sampling some antichuos. Antichuos is the general term for describing meat on a stick. The meat is generally beef, alpaca or if you are real special beef heart. Most people ask me, are you not scared that you will get sick or some weird meat disease? The simple answer is no. Most times that I have made the bathroom a base camp have generally been the result of fruits, vegetables and the local water.
Antichuos- skewered meat

next streetMeat is a safer option and street meat there is really no option for rare, it is usually well done and I also follow my general rule of if I do not see anybody eating from there, especially locals, I will not eat there as well. That is my greatest indicator for street food because if there are locals eating there, it is a green light for me, I mean think about it, if they were getting sick and dying from her food, how long is she going to stay in business? She can’t kill her clientele. The first antichuo I had was in Cusco, I was told it was alpaca meat but I honestly could not tell if it was but I just know it was heavily seasoned and it was good. The other time I had antichuo was in Aguas Calientes and it was mind blowing because this lady was grilling on a makeshift grill with a tarp for a ghetto awning and using one of those old fireplace pumps to keep the coals hot on the grill. Her antichuos were amazing that I sat, well stood there eating and letting the smoke and meat flavors penetrate every pore of my body. I was able to try beef heart, which I was able to identify and it was delicious. I am happy that beef heart is still not on the trendy offal train yet keeping the prices of hearts down. 
Love she is using the fireplace pump

Antichuos are great and the only bad thing I can say about them is when they slap a wedge of potato at the end of the stick. Although I am a fan of the potatoes in Peru, all the antichuos I had the potatoes were pretty cold and gummy and was not worth the stomach space. The meat was heavily spiced so naturally you will get thirsty which brings me to my treat…

This is just alpaca...at least thats what she told me
Chi cha and other drinks can be found all over the streets, just look for the buckets. Most of these beverage vendors sell what I call the core three of chi cha morada, chi chia and quinoa drink. I am wary about anything that uses the indigenous water because I know for a fact that my stomach is not trained for this. Me being me…well I had tried the chi cha morada. Here is a tip, as for the drink to go where they will pour it in a bag for you and give you a straw making it the most hygienic and safest way for you to drink it. I saw the water that the street beverage proprietor was washing it in and uhh…yeah it was not to pretty. Chi Cha Morada is a non-alcoholic drink that is made with purple corn and pineapple juice. For me it was refreshing, but tooth aching sweet. However I guess this is the original purple drank, sorry Kool Aid Man. The other drink that I had was straight Chi Cha. Chi Cha is an alcoholic corn beer/liquor and I had this on the first day of the trail. Our guide was offering it to us and told us to take a swig and pour a little bit to mother earth, not wanting to offended or look like a bitch, I of course took a swig of it. Chi Cha is fermented corn as I stated, but they way they ferment the corn would make a Health Inspector faint. Corn is chewed to a pulp and then spit out and mixed in order to encourage fermentation, so human saliva is involved in the creation of this drink, especially in the rural areas of Peru…like the villages in the Andes. Getting past the fact of drinking spit swapping, it does not taste bad, it just tastes like a light beer with a heavy corn taste. Note that not all Chi Cha is made like this, just in the more rural areas. Thankfully I did not experience any discomfort because that would stink…especially still had 3 days of hiking ahead of me.
Drink Buckets of unknown origin...actually reminds me any party in college
Lima had all of these street food vendors all over the place and the most notable was the ones that littered Kennedy Park. One of the notable ones was this guy named Don Fredy and he was selling turrones of all kinds. 

By all kinds I mean the suave and the crocantes meaning the smooth ones and the crunch ones. Turrones are generally nougat like candy but the ones that Don Fredy is selling are more like cakes. The suave turron is sandy on the outside and has a chewy layer of sticky sugar in the middle and the crocantes is a brick of crunchy, sticky goodness. Due to a language barrier and realizing that this treat made me a bee magnet, I was unable to ask Don Fredy more about these treats and what they are made of. I just know it was good and tasty. 
Suave turrone
Crocrante turrone

Lima in the morning is pleasant and on almost any corner, there are what I call sandwich breakfast carts. They are green carts that are dishing out some kind of beverages and multiple sandwiches. Me being curious and always being hungry, I snagged a random sandwich and found out in my game of sandwich roulette I got a ham and avocado sandwich. I unfortunately was unable to take a picture of the sandwich due to the insane amount of foot traffic. I also had fresh squeeze orange juice, sandwich tasted better than the juice; although fresh, it was not really that sweet but for a breakfast of 1 USD, you can not really complain. 
Tortas and more beverages of unknown origin...I'm down
Lima StreetThe last of the street foods that I had was hard boiled quail eggs. I mean, it is not even a cart really, it is a basket on wheels and one of the most minimal street food operations I have seen and impressive. In a pot of boiling water from an undetermined heat source, quail eggs are thrown into the boiling pool and in just a few short minutes in the middle of the busy you are snacking on hard boiled quail eggs. The quail eggs that I snacked were more like soft boiled eggs when gave them a soft yolk making them that much better. A sprinkling of salt and I was satisfied.
No idea how she is boiling the quail eggs
I always like eating street food in other countries because I truly enjoy it. I do not do it to be a knock-off Andrew Zimmer or to play the macho game. Okay, maybe I do eat street food to dabble in the food version of, “Can you top this” but I think street food is a great representation and best way to experience a country. Not only do I end up eating well, I always get to meet people, locals mainly that are passionate about food and are always willing to talk about themselves and lives. I would have not met Maria, the picarones lady in Aguas Calientes that have been making picarones for the past 4 years and is generally only there when her son is playing soccer. I have no problem paying top dollar for food or sitting down with a jacket and tie, but I found out the best experiences I have had while traveling have been around food that I have found in simple settings, outside, and on the street.

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