Whoo, look at that! Not even 24 hours have gone by since my last post, and here I am at it again!
Before we get to the goods, a few orders of business…Any of you who regularly check in on my blog have probably noticed that the, er, entire layout is different. I picked the last layout that I had because it was really photo-centric…and so am I. Pictures are such a huge part of my traveling experience (though I’m not exactly claiming they’re GREAT photos…ahem) that I wanted to make sure that every post, or almost every post, had a picture to go with it to make the story more complete for those who aren’t here. However, I didn’t really like the look of the last layout…too jumbled. I chose this new layout because it still keeps that photo-centric feel (you can literally click on any picture to the right that interests you & immediately go to its post) but also, for the most recent entry, gives a little bit of the writing too as a sneak peak. Furthermore, it takes up less space on the home page so it’s easier to find entries, but still let’s me pick a “featured image” as a preview for each post. Downsides? I feel like the font is HUGE, which irritates me (I don’t think I can change that without paying for custom options). I also switched to putting photos on my pages in size “large” rather than that pitiful “medium”, but with the change of layout “large” has become “ENTIRE PAGE SPACE” and I can’t make up my mind about that.
What I’m getting at, people, is that feedback would be helpful, although I know most of you just sporadically read this blog and don’t get involved enough to comment. But it’d be nice to know!
Also, more feedback wanted: What kinds of things would you be interested in reading more about? So far I tend to get the most hits on pages about food-which is fabulous, because that’s a passion of mine. Eating, cooking, baking, etc. Obviously, I’m not going to turn this blog into a food-only blog, although if you were to do that anywhere, Peru would be THE place. I still enjoy writing about my life here for my own memories, as well as for anyone who’s interested. However, I can definitely expand where people would like! So what do you want to read more about? Food? School/studying abroad? Cultural notes? Politics/History? (That last one may take a few more weeks before I’m qualified enough to write anything.) Tourist spots/landmarks? Lima information? My own personal life story? (Juuuust kidding-nobody wants that. :P)
Anyway, I’m waiting to hear back from you kids. Onto the food! I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to eat out today or not…saving money is always nice, although food here is pretty cheap, comparatively. However, I stayed inside most of the day working on the blog/other things, so when I finally realized that it was SUNNY outside (gasp!) I just had to go walk around with my camera! And then, of course, it came around to 6:00ish and I hadn’t eaten since 9 AM, so… it happened.
Originally I was planning to go back to the Arabic restaurant where I met the Palestinian brothers yesterday, but for whatever reason, as I was walking around I just sort of got a craving for pork. Which, if you didn’t know, is more or less non-existant in Arabic cuisine. As I made my way around towards El Parque Kennedy, I was eyeballing the various restaurants. A lot of restaurants around there are a hair more expensive than I wanted (but, as I said, comparatively not bad) so I almost re-visted the local branch of La Lucha Sanguchería Criolla to keep things cheap…but then, I just HAPPENED to walk past the following:
These carts are located all over el Parque Kennedy. Some sell sweets-churros, mazamorra/arroz con leche, sospiro limeño, picarrones, etc. Some sell popcorn. And one or two, dear readers, sell butifarras. (And this one always smells DAMN good.) So what is a butifarra? It’s a sandwich of sliced pork (butifarra de lechón) or turkey (de pavo) with various toppings. As you can see, the cart is loaded up with all of the goods in stacks-the vendors simply pop one of the white rolls open, give them a quick toast on the grill, and grill up the meat as well before adding your toppings. (This particular cart also sold chicken sandwiches & drinks like coffee, hot chocolate, chicha morada–naturally I got one of those–and something called champú, which, apparently, is another corn & fruit based drink, though not purple and with a few different flavors than chicha morada/is also served warm, not cold. Will have to try sometime.)
So, I opted for the butifarra de lechón. The only things I requested they leave off were the onions & mayonnaise. I’m not a huge fan of either, and I have learned that when traveling, it is ALWAYS best to avoid mayonnaise, because a lot of foreign countries, er, leave it out all day. Anyway, this meant that my sandwich came paired with lettuce, pork (obviously), mustard, and ají sauce. Ají is basically chilis/spicy sauce, I believe, and so I was kind of nervous about this. I don’t actually do too well with spicy food, I’m ashamed to say.
The first few bites were disappointing. As with my chicharrón, my immediate reaction was…what do I have to do to get some moist, greasy pork around here?! Once again I found the actual meat to be a hair dry. However, a couple more bites in and I changed my mind. I think I’m just TOO prepared for a pulled-pork sandwich every time I get pork here, or perhaps I’m too ready for that ooey, gooey cheese to be melted on top of anything I order in a bun. I need to learn to leave those expectations behind. I’m not usually a mustard person, although I don’t hate it, but my first few bites were a bit loaded with it and so I immediately felt like I was just eating a dry cheeseburger back in the USA. That is, until the ají sauce came into play. That sauce changed eeeeverything. It definitely had some heat to it, but I didn’t really think it was bad at all-it was really flavorful, and I realized that this sandwich wasn’t about the meat, with condiments as extra toppings like we have in the USA; this sandwich was about the toppings--it was about the ají–with the meat just serving as a convenient platter. Once that thought took ahold…it was a pretty tasty meal. I still would *prefer* some slightly less dry meat, and I’ll go ahead and say their buns are still not up to par…but as far as street food goes, definitely a good dinner, and I shall not fear ají in the future–good to know, because it’s on a LOT of traditional foods here.
Butifarra sandwich: S/7.00 or about $2.67
Chicha morada: S/2.00 or about $0.76 (oh my god, I should never have done that math. I’ll never stop drinking something that delicious AND cheap!)
So, after that sandwich I was rather full, but with the heat of the ají still kicking in my mouth, especially from the last few sauce-loaded bites, I wanted something sweet & possibly flour-based to tone things back down. Once again headed out looking for alfajores…once again managed to completely blow past wherever the hell that sweets shop is. Luckily, not too far from my apartment on the sidewalk overlooking the ocean there’s a nice little isolated café/stand set up. (Sorry, couldn’t see a name anywhere, so I’ll have to check it out later.) They did indeed have alfajores, and I was all set and ready to order one, when…
This saliva-inducing case caught my eye. Who, I ask you, can walk by such a thing?! Closer examination solidly convinced me that I needed a piece of chocolate cake. (Given the fact that my run today was pathetically short, I can say with much guilt that I did not, however, need those calories. Oops.)
And I get what I want. (Er, sometimes.)
The cake was a bit of a surprise. If you’ve ever read food blogs before, you’ll have noticed that when people write about cakes, they always talk about the “crumb“. The “light” crumb, the “moist” crumb, and my personal favorite, the “delicate” crumb. Well this chocolate chunk of calories, if I may be so bold, had a large, spongey, thick crumb. This was not a dense nor brownie-esque piece of cake–it was ridden with eensy weensy airbubbles–but neither was it light and fluffy. It almost seemed rustic just based on the texture, sort of like the difference between sand and silt. FYI, I’m not at all saying it was bad–from looking at it, I just thought it was going to be a bit fudgier! Also, there were two layers of what I’m assuming was dulce de leche–one extremely thin near the bottom, and one in the middle. Actually, I think the one in the middle was caramel. (I apologize for my lack of knowledge on this front, but I have never actually knowingly consumed dulce de leche, so I don’t recognize it when I see/taste it.) In any case, the cake as a whole seemed to be permeated and soaked with that kind of sweetness–it was not intensely chocolatey, rather, it had chocolate as a base and seemed to be carrying that caramely sweet flavor as if they’d drizzled it throughout. Even the frosting was not as expected! Though it looked like your standard chocolate buttercream, it actually was like chocolate caramel–just as sticky as the middle layer, but with a chocolate flavor.
While this was clearly not the rich chocolate cake I thought I was buying, it was definitely a sweet, delectable treat. And, in my opinion, pretty representative of Peruvian desserts from what I have come to see, if not taste. They really like sweetness here-dulce de leche/manjar blanco or caramel is featured in all kinds of desserts, and then of course there are things like ice cream or mazamorra that I’ve mentioned in other posts. So, seems to me like that slice of cake was chocolate cake, Peruvian-style, to its core.
Pastel de Chocolate: S/6.00 or about $2.29 (I really need to eat in for the rest of the week…)
Alright, and for one teeeeeny last little review: I was a terrible, terrible person when I got home. That piece of cake opened up my sweet-tooth that has more or less been very good since arriving here, so when I returned I busted into a few of the last pieces of bon o bons that I bought from the grocery store a while back. These aren’t your French bonbons, kids…this is my Reese’s substitute. I haven’t seen Reese’s more than once here, but these are little balls of peanut butter in a thin wafer shell covered in milk chocolate, and they’re going to be the magic that holds me out until I get back home. Not necessarily a Peruvian classic, but I felt they were worthy of a mention!
And now I’m going to roll myself over to my desk to do homework, because after this gluttonous evening I probably can no longer walk.