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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Celebrating Peru's Fiestas Patrias the foodie way

I had nothing planned for my last full day in Huaraz. In the morning, I dropped by a cafe to grab breakfast. It was only 8AM, but as I approached the main street that led to the Plaza de Armas, groups of children dressed in distinct uniforms and holding various instruments came into view.

July is a month of celebration in Peru. The 28th and the 29th are Peru's Fiestas Patrias, celebrating the country's independence from Spain. The 28th marks the actual day of independence, while the 29th honors the armed forces. Mixed in throughout the month are also various anniversaries across the nation. In Huaraz, July 25th marks the day that the province of Huaraz was formed. As such, the entire last week of July is pretty much a week of parades and parties as various cities from the Ancash region gather in Huaraz to celebrate. 

After spending a bit of time watching the procession of bands, I headed to my original destination for breakfast. There, I bumped into Aasiyah who I had met on the Laguna 69 trek two days before.

I bumped into Aasiyah again shortly after we both left the cafe in the early afternoon. The parade along the main street was still progressing, and in fact didn't end until around 4PM. After visiting the artisanal market, we headed back towards the direction of the parade. There, I had a sudden craving for ice cream so we stopped by one of the shops. It didn't look like a place where samples were allowed (though to be fair, we didn't ask), so I got three scoops of flavors whose names I didn't recognize. It turned out "mani" was peanuts, which became my favorites. Another flavor translated into "Black Forest," but I'm still not sure what it was. The third scoop was also a mystery - all I know is that it had a long name starting with an "A" (perhaps the Spanish word for apricot?).

I told Aasiyah about my experience with eating cuy. Since she wanted to try cuy, I figured I would give it another shot. Maybe the gringo restaurant just got it wrong. Somehow we ended up at the Huaraz mercado - the bottom floor sold household goods, while the second floor consisted of tiny restaurants, each of which had a couple tables and a 5x4 kitchen. It appeared we were the only foreigners there, garnering us everyone's attention as we walked through the stalls. The menus all looked the same, so we chose one whose kitchen looked the cleanest. We were both going to be on a bus all day to Lima, so food poisoning wasn't an option.

When we sat down at our first chosen stall, the woman immediately brought out a large bowl of soup for each of us thinking that we wanted the 4 soles lunch pre fixe menu. When we told her we wanted cuy, we were sadly informed that she had none. So off to the next stall, where our luck was better. After 15 minutes or so, our dish was brought out. Unlike the fried cuy legs I had gotten previously, we were served pretty much the entire cuy - paws and head and all. However, it was still skin, bones, and fat, with scarcely any meat. At least the spicy sauce it was served with went well with the rice - and it cost us only 12 soles.

Afterwards, we went in search of the pastry shop whose chicken empanada Aasiyah raved about. When we finally found the place, it turned out the empanada was worth the walk. I had pretty much finished it on our walk back to the Plaza when I realized I forgot to take a picture of it. 

Maneuvering through the crowds that were gathered around the various street performances, we came upon a man who was selling what looked like fried pieces of coconut. What the heck, why not? It was only one sole!

Later that night, on the same street upon which the parade progressed, a number of street food vendors were set up to sell everything from churros to wine to dinner plates. It was gastronomic heaven. Just a few feet away, people, numbering in the hundreds, were gathered in front of the concert stage at Plaza de Armas celebrating the province's anniversary.

Other foods from Huaraz...

Next up, 9.5 hours to Lima and another 12 to Huancayo on South America's highest elevation train. 


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