A cool Andean morning calls for a hot Andean beverage. In La Paz you can choose from coffee or a steaming cup of api, also called chicha morada. While chicha often refers to boozy-type beverages, chicha morada is not the Bolivian equivalent of Irish coffee. Non-alcoholic, it’s made from purple corn that’s been boiled with pineapple, cinnamon, clove and sugar—all of which make it the perfect spicy-sweet belly-warmer when it’s 25° outside.
Topped with cheese and washed down with the aforementioned chicha morada, marraqueta, or pan francés is a very typical (and delicious) Bolivian breakfast. While locals will assure you that the distinctive bread is a La Paz specialty, experts agree that the lighter-than-air rolls originated around the turn of the 20th century in Valparaíso, Chile, where two French brothers called Marraquette began selling it at their bakery.
Once breakfast’s worn off and your tummy starts rumbling again, head to the markets for some of the freshest street food we’ve had. There you’ll find all variety of fruits and vegetables, and you can chat with the cholitas as they weigh up your purchases.
Lunch is the biggest, longest meal of the day in Bolivia, so next make your way through the meat market, at the back of which we found a tasty little eatery. Bolivian cooking tends to use all parts of the animal; if innards are your thing, you’ll be in heaven.
If, on the other hand, intestines make you queasy, try ordering chairo. Chairo, which means “soup” in Aymara, is the signature dish of La Paz. Its main ingredient is chuño, or freeze-dried potato, which gets gussied up with lamb, llama jerky, herbs, and vegetables. We had our chairo with fideo, a Spanish noodle that’s toasted before it’s cooked.
By this time your belly will probably be feeling pretty full—which satiety, you’ll be happy to hear, does not come at the expense of an empty pocketbook. All told, this most satisfying of lunches will only cost you in the neighborhood of $3-$5.
Which means you’ll have plenty of cash—if not room in your belly—left over for dinner!
Bolivian dinners are usually on the lighter side. In La Paz you’re quite close to Lake Country, which means that freshwater fish like trout are a good bet. Of course, if you’re looking for something a bit more exotic, there’s always tatu, or roast armadillo, which tastes a lot like high-grade pork.