The Culinary Tour Continues – Andean Edition

One thing I’ve noticed everywhere I’ve traveled, is that everyone eats food. It’s kind of crazy, but trust me it’s true. The Andean countries were no exception, as demonstrated below. Peru itself is an exception, in that its cuisine is rather exceptional, and thus deserves a separate upcoming post, fulfilling the Argentina role of the Andean nations.

Bolivia

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Anticuchos or beef hearts. Served with a portion of potatoes, they taste much better than they sound in fact. I think most cows would agree with me. Accompanied with fideos de aji (spicy noodles).

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Meat on a stick. It works in all countries (and makes for the perfect birthday meal!)

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This is where papa rellenos were introduced as a near daily item in our travel diet. Basically fried mashed potatoes stuffed with various items, I’m surprised this hasn’t taken off in America (imagine cheese & turkey bacon papa rellenos?? Apples and brie? Or for a healthy yuppie option, with kale with more kale?)

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Peach pit juice – for those who think the drinks in America just never had enough pits in them.

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Root beer cream(sicle) – heavy on the cream, really heavy on the cream.

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Normally eating up a llama would never cross my mind, but normally llamas do not cross my mind that often. This place served not only grilled to savory perfection llama steaks, but also llama chorizos. Part of a Sunday market eating tour, we were stuffed by the time we found this place at the end of the market, but the option of a whole plate full of variously prepared llama meats for $4 was too tantalizing to pass up (with no regrets – one of best meat dishes of the trip!).

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Deserts are king – chocolate covered strawberries and ubiquitous slices of moist birthday cake abound. The cake in particular became an internal hit, to the point where I began shaking most days around 5pm without it.

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The best afternoons were ones where I accomplished the Trifecta – the consumption of cake, jello, and sublime (a surprisingly delicious chocolate bar) in quick succession. I’d like to say those afternoons were rare, so I will (just know that I am lying). While the feeling of accomplishment immediately post-Trifecta was rewarding, how I felt 20 minutes afterwards is a different story . . .

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Albondigas plate, or meatballs with a bunch of side stuff, including tubers and purple corn. Typical dish, also seen with chorizo.

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Juices, juices, and more juices. Of all kinds, with milk or water. Not pictured here, but I had a peanut with milk one that went over pretty well with myself.

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Salteñas – a take on your typical empanada but with juice inside and a sweeter taste. They will explode hot liquid all over you if you are unaware of their contents, as we learned the hard way (thus going to a place with a plate & utensils for this one). Pretty decent, but prefer the less sweet ones.

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Charky is Bolivian beef jerky made from llama? Served with cheese here, it is delicious but incredibly salty, which is saying something coming from me. We were unable to finish this plate, which normally may be a decent thing as well-preserved as it may be. In this case it was not.

Ecuador

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A fried banana filled with cheese! A snack fit for the gods but made by a human – how could it be so? I am not one to question, so I’ll stop and just order another.

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Street meat is eat(en) meat. A combo platter for $4.

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The reign of papas rellenos continue, with a heavy focus on rice on the inside. These ones even come with an ever-handy spork.

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Shrimp ceviche, or more like shrimp soup. Sounds amazing, but we all know how I feel about soup (apparently me and Malfalda a like). Good attempt by Ecuador, but will take its southern neighbor’s version over it any day of the week (including the odd leap year Tuesday).

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Cheese tortillas! Anything with cheese wins, every time.

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I honestly don’t remember what this was. I was hoping you could tell me.

Colombia

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Papa rellenos for life!

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Completely artificial slushy, as I tried my best in Colombia to recreate the trifecta given less frequent jello sightings, inferior cake, and non-existent sublimes. Try as Colombia might, the deserts just don’t live up, but they do serve as a forceful way to detox back to a normal and healthy level of sugar.

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What Colombia lacks in the desert department, it does make up however in the fried chicken with artificial honey department. Likely just as insalubrious, the combo of fried chicken skin and chemically induced/factory produced honey is a winner in my book of food winners (2015 edition).

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Caldo de pollo, or basically chicken soup. Aghast, Christine is eating a meal with another brown man (while I film)! Notice that is also our last food photo . . . interpret as you will.

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Leopold in the Jungle

A guest post by one Christine Ribeiro

As part of our South American adventure, the Amazon was always expected to be one of the highlights. Though we were not visiting Brazil, we had heard from a friend that Ecuador was the best of the other countries, as the rivers that flow through the jungle are narrower, thus allowing for more animal sightings. While other travelers we met along the way regaled us with tales of their Amazon adventures in Peru and Bolivia, we kept the mantra and were fully committed to Ecuador. Amidst a range of options, we decided to stay at an Eco lodge in the Cuyabeno Reserve, in the northeast of the country. To get there you had to take a 2 hour flight from Quito to Lago Agrio, followed by a two hour bus ride to the river, and then a two hour boat ride to the lodge. It was out there. We arrived to our basic but comfortable lodge, after seeing various monkeys, birds and even a sloth along the way.

Cruising down the Rio Cuyabeno

Cruising down the Rio Cuyabeno

Though the lodge was in the middle of the jungle and had only partial walls, in your mind there was a separation. The animals are out there and we are in here. This bubble was initially burst when we arrived back from our night tour on the river to see people staring at the entrance of the dining cabin. There seemed to be something of interest, so we headed over only to find a large tarantula in the entrance way. Not what you want to see before you head to your cabin at night for the first time. The guides tried to assure us that they only lived in the dining cabin and rarely went to the room. Not so reassuring.

Unwelcome visitor

Unwelcome visitor

We went to bed our first night, checking all of the sheets and blankets first to make sure the coast was clear. We then sequestered ourselves inside of our mosquito net and were seemingly safe. In the middle of the night, however, Omar had to go to the bathroom. After using the bathroom (attached to our room) with his headlamp on, he went to wash his hands, only to find a frog sitting right in our sink. A bit of a shock when you are groggy in the middle of the night. He told me about it the next morning, but when we went in, the frog was nowhere to be found.

Later the second day, after a hike through the muddy forest, we were hanging up our clothes to dry around the cabin. Omar wanted to hang his hat, but there were limited hooks in the room. He saw a hook just outside our room where he went to hang his hat, only to realize that this hook was actually a frog looking out of a hole in the wood!

Not a hook at all

Not a hook at all

We later learned that our frog friend, which we quickly named Leopold, would spend his days in the hole. As it got darker, you would see him start to move further out of the hole and, inevitably while we were at dinner or out of the room, he would make his way to the bathroom. One night, we invited the others people on our tour to meet Leopold and he posed on the sink for them.

Leopold in the shower

Leopold in the shower

Now expecting Leopold to be in sink, it made things much less scary when you found him there. The last night, however, he decided to switch it up and waited on the door, exactly where you put your hand to push it open. He got Omar again when he went to the bathroom. His final joke, which I am sure he will be laughing about for days after.

Waiting for the sink to be turned on

Waiting for the sink to be turned on

We saw a lot of interesting plant and animals during our trip and were glad we waited for Ecuador. We are also glad that Leopold was the only to enter our room, as far as we know.

Leopold waving good-bye

Leopold waving good-bye