Bolivia

Coca leavesCoca has been part of Andean culture for centuries, and chewing is still very common and perfectly legal in Bolivia. You should be able to buy a big bag of dried leaves at the local market. Coca is a stimulant, and it also suppresses hunger. Chewing a wad of leaves for a few minutes should bring slight numbness to your lips and throat. Remember the slogan printed on souvenir T-shirts: Coca no es Cocaina "The coca leaf is not cocaine". But cocaine most definitely is an illegal drug.

The cuisine of Bolivia might be called the original "meat and potatoes" -- the latter locally called papas from the Quechua were first cultivated by the Inca before spreading throughout the world. The most common meat is beef, though chicken and llama are also easily found. Pork is relatively common. Deep frying chicharron is a common method of cooking all sorts of meat, and fried chicken is a very popular quick dish; at times the smell permeates the streets of Bolivian cities. Guinea pigs cuy and rabbits conejo are eaten in rural areas, though you can sometimes find them in urban restaurants as well. A common condiment served with Bolivian meals is llajhua, a spicy sauce similar to Mexican salsa.

Some notable Bolivian dishes:

Pique a lo macho

Grilled chunks of meat in a slightly spicy sauce with tomatoes and onion, on potatoes

Silpancho

Or milanesa - beef pounded to a thin, plate-sized patty, served on a bed of rice and potatoes, with a fried egg on top similar to wiener schnitzel.

Street food and snacks:

Anticucho - Beef hearts grilled on a skewer, served with potatoes and a spicy corn sauce

Salchipapa - Thinly sliced sausage fried with potatoes

Choripan - Chorizo spicy sausage sandwich, served with grilled onions and lots of sauce

Mid-Morning snacks typically consists of any of several of meat-filled buns:

Salteña - A baked bun filled with meat and potatoes in a slightly sweet or spicy sauce. Be careful when you take a bite, as the sauce will drip all over!

Tucumana - Like a salteña but fried

Empanada - Similar to a saltena, often filled with cheese as well as meat

Cuñape - A small roll filled with cheese, similar to Brazilian pão de queijo. The bread is made from cassava flour.

Many people also start off the day with some concoction involving fruit:

Ensalada de frutas - Many different fruits chopped in a bowl of yogurt. Very filling. Some stalls may have honey, nuts or gelatin on top, if you like.

Vegetarians will find decent to very good options in Gringo-places around the country. But also at market places, there are good vegeratian options on offer usually potatoes, rice, fried egg and salad for about 7Bs. In bigger cities, there are some decent to good fully vegetarian restaurants.