My favorite way to connect with a new culture is through food. The ingredients, cooking methods, and traditions of a region tell you so much about the way people live; and the Wikipedia of any culture’s food scene is the local market. Large and full of energy, Peru’s markets each tell a story of local industry and historical influence, acting as a reflection of the city itself. The market of Huaraz was a frenzied, untamed wilderness with animal carcasses draped over every stall. Iquitos was an exotic and at times disturbing display of the magnificent flora and fauna the Amazon provides. Opening ones eyes to the very real struggle the city continues to have with poaching. The market in Tarapoto, a tropical hub of fruit production, could hardly contain the mountains of fresh pineapples, papayas, and plantains. The colors, smells, and activity all bring you a little closer to a foreign land.
Arequipa, a beautiful colonial city vibrant with pre-Incan, Incan, and Spanish influence champions Mercado San Camilo, the market of my dreams. Mountains of bright fruits and veggies usher you in. Fresh cheese, meats, and fish line the aisles. A smattering of other vendors sell clothes, medicinal herbs, and locally produced hats to combat the desert heat. There is a stall that exclusively sells avocados the size of softballs! A lineup of vendors sling smoothies to order. It’s heaven.
The real show stoppers here though are the snacks. The three most delicious items I have consumed in Peru came from this market. And without further delay I share them with you, revel in the food porn.
- Roasted pork sandwich with lime cured onions, mustard, and mayo.
- Chicken tamales with olives and onion tomato slaw. Homemade green chili sauce brings the heat. Sadly, it turns out I never got a photo of these...it was just too good to put down
- Rocoto Relleno, hot pepper stuffed with beef and veggies baked with a generous helping of cheese through out. Not for those afraid of some heat.
I believe I could eat here for the rest of my life.
Papas Rellenos, sold just outside the market for S/. 1 ($.34) this is the Peruvian kanish, stuffed with chicken and/or veggies, and it is delightful. Top with the fresh orange chili sauce and rejoice.