With its rich culinary heritage, lively street food scene, and diverse ingredients, no wonder tour operators are beginning to showcase Bolivia as a gourmet hotspot.
From the Salar de Uyuni to the Amazonian rainforest national parks, the range of natural wonders Bolivia offers is no secret. But only recently has the culinary landscape emerged into the spotlight. In fact, foodie travellers can now take exclusive tours to discover the gourmet scene.
Today’s traveller is looking for exotic experiences, new challenges, and unusual ingredients. Bolivia delivers them all. After all, this is the only country in the world where a visitor can take tailor-made tours to a winery and a coffee plantation in the same day.
Inspired by a magical landscape
Bolivia seduces travellers with a simple ingredient – diversity. This landlocked Latin American country enjoys a variety of climates, from the dry, high altitude valleys of the Andes, to the humid jungle of the Amazon. That diversity translates into a curious mixture of ingredients and dishes, one that is found nowhere else in the world. On a trip to Bolivia, look out for the following unique specialties:
- Charque de llama – a spicy jerky made from Bolivia’s favourite animal
- Quinoa beer
- Vodka made from Andean wheat
- Organic chocolate from El Ceibo
- Frozen ‘chuno’ potatoes from the Altiplana
- Singani – our national spirit, like a white grape brandy
- Fresh trout or ‘trucha’ from Lake Titicaca
Street food tours
The best way to understand Bolivian cuisine is to start with its street food. The mercado and the chola are still the heart and soul of national cuisine, and La Paz in particular is a city that eats on the move. Some of the essential national dishes that you must try when you’re in Bolivia include:
- A breakfast ‘saltena’ – an oven-baked meat pastry – from a roadside stall
- Deep fried ‘tucumanas’ pastry with a spicy dipping sauce
- A hearty ‘choripan’ sandwich from a late-night vendor
- The classic ‘anticucho’ kebab made with cow’s heart, grilled on the portable BBQ
Move over Argentinian Malbec and Chilean Merlot – some of the oldest vines in the world are found in Bolivia. In all, there are 65 wineries spread across 4 regions to discover, most famously around the central valleys near Tarija, where the vines are planted alongside pepper trees to protect against disease. With its high altitude vineyards, Bolivia produces some astonishingly rich, fruity red wines that are building a big reputation.
The Claus Meyer effect
One of the most influential figures to discover Bolivia’s rich gastronomy – and bring it to the world’s attention – is legendary chef Claus Meyer. In 2013, the founder of Noma (named the world’s #1 restaurant several times) sought a new challenge. He was looking to open a restaurant in a country with biological diversity, where the cuisine had unrealised potential. Bolivia came in first place.
Meyer opened ‘Gustu’ restaurant in La Paz, showcasing indigenous Bolivian ingredients and heritage, as well as six culinary schools as part of his Melting Pot Foundation. The idea of Gustu was not to bring fancy dining to Bolivia. In fact, quite the opposite. The décor, design and name above the door belong to world-famous gastronomy, but the menu pays homage to the same ingredients and techniques you’ll find on the streets of La Paz or among the indigenous communities. Ingredients like ‘quirquina’ (Bolivian coriander), chillis, achiote, Uyuni salt, and our huge variety of starchy tubers like tunta and papalisa.
Today’s traveller is no longer looking to check off a list of landmarks, but to immerse themselves in the culture of each destination. Food tourism is the route to understanding any country. Perhaps Bolivia has been slow to show off, but there’s definitely the sense that our time in the spotlight is coming. If you’d like to find out more about exclusive, tailor-made foodie tours to Bolivia, visit our website.
Photo Credit: Ona Restaurant | Umawi Coffee & Bar | Gustu Restaurant | Bolivia Milenaria