High up in the Andes Mountains, near the center of South America, sits the Altiplano. The large expanse of fairly flat land is home to 70% of Bolivia's population. And while the weather can be very cold much of the year, it provides its residents with plenty of sunshine. It's perfect weather for potatoes and llamas, both important parts of traditional life in Bolivia.
Tradition is a very strong influence in Bolivia, where indigenous cultures still form an important part of the national fabric-more than half of the population is full-blooded indigenous people. Only 30% are mestizo, a mix of indigenous and European heritage.
Despite the fact that nearly three quarters of Bolivians live in the Altiplano, there is a warm tropical region of the country which supplies a wide variety of fruits to supplement the potato-heavy diet of the high plains.
Explore the traditions of Bolivia, and find out a little bit more about the high plains' kitchens.
Points of Interest
Landlocked Bolivia has two main regions: the western Altiplano or highland plateau where almost half of the population resides and the lowlands in the north and east that include both rain forests and grasslands. With relatively few outside influences, Bolivia's geography has created a culinary landscape that is one of Latin America's most traditional.
As in neighboring Peru, the potato-both fresh and dehydrated-reigns supreme in the Altiplano along with beef, pork, spicy aji peppers, and trout from Lake Titicaca. Quinoa, a protein-rich grain that is nutritionally significant in the Bolivian diet, ripens only at high elevations.
Corn, rice, and yuca (cassava) are staples throughout the country. Humintas, a popular snack and street food, are Bolivian tamales. Bolivian Quinoa Humintas (Tamales) is a true highland version with a flavorful quinoa and cheese stuffing steamed in corn husks.
In addition to lake trout (and frogs' legs, for which Bolivia is well known), beef, pork, and chicken are widely consumed meats. National dishes include: fritanga, spicy pork and egg stew; silpancho, thinly sliced, breaded and fried beef; and many variations of picante de pollo, deep-fried or braised chicken prepared with a spicy vegetable sauce.
Grilled Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Bolivian Sauce features marinated grilled chicken breasts topped with a creamy quinoa sauce flavored with hot peppers, peanuts, and goat cheese.
Llajwa is the national condiment found in every Bolivian home and restaurant, a tomato-based hot pepper sauce flavored with specially cultivated herbs.
The tamarillo, or tree tomato, is a native fruit in the Andes and eaten in a variety of sweet and savory ways. Its tangy, mildly sweet flesh is similar to kiwifruit or passion fruit. Tamarillo, along with passion fruit, mango, and other fruits, is also churned into Tamarillo Fruit & Ice Creams or fruit ice creams that are uniquely delicious and refreshing.
Fruits are also whipped with milk into licuados or fruit shakes. Unique beverages include the mate de coca, a coca leaf tea that helps one adjust to the altitude, and api, a sweet breakfast tea made from corn, lemon, cloves, and cinnamon.