Monday, January 4

Huaraz' hidden treasure

It wasn't in the guidebook. It wasn't even something locals thought was worth mentioning. But today, Sergio and I found Huaráz' real treasure--the traditional food festival held every Sunday. 

Really, we arrived almost by accident. After a short trip up the Callejón de Huaylas to Carhuaz for ice cream and a tour of the market...
...everyone had pachamanca on the brain. 

Pachamanca (translation from Quechua=earthern pot) was a first for me. It's a meat dish (usually pork, lamb or chicken) placed over heated stones, then buried under dirt and grass and cooked for about an 1 1/2 hours. Peruvians everywhere salivate over the thought of it, but it's rare to find and only cooked well in certain regions.

We were determined but we couldn't find somewhere in Carhuaz. David assured us he knew of a good place that sold it every Sunday in Huaraz. So, like dedicated foodies, we got back in the van and headed into town. 

I didn't think much about where we might find this dish. After all, it's common for certain dishes to only be served one day of the week in Peru. 

But I didn't imagine I'd find this:
On a tiny street hidden from view, and a good 15-minute walk up the hill from the plaza, we arrived upon a makeshift restaurant scene. The street is vacant for the whole week, except for Sunday, when it's transformed into a raucous traditional Peruvian food extravaganza.

There's everything you could ever want along the street. But almost all the restaurants are selling pachamanca at a reasonable price of 13 soles ($4.30). Every restaurant had it's people pounding the streets with good offers to entice customers. We walked the line of tables at least three times before deciding on a spot.

We ordered two plates of it to share. Three different meats were wrapped up in this brown paper. With it came a tamale (the same name as the Mexican one, but a lot different), a sweet potato, a white potato, choclo (corn) and a few humitas (sweet tamales):

We dove in with our hands. Inside, the pachamanca looks like this--three pieces of meat cooked with herbs.

I liked it, all. The flavors were new and different than even most Peruvian dishes I've tasted before. And the atmosphere--sharing the view of the mountains on a narrow back alley with Peruvians families on a Sunday afternoon--was unforgettable. 

My recommendation to Frommer's and Lonely Planet--get this food market in your books or risk allowing so many travelers to miss out on a real Peruvian experience.

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