The first dish I had during my recent visit to La Paz, Bolivia was falso conejo, something that is a Bolivian treat and typical of La Paz. My friends and I stayed with a wonderful family in El Alto that always receives us with open arms and to celebrate our arrival they prepared and served up this enticing treat.
This dish is mostly prepared at home, although I am told you can find it in a few public markets, such as in Copacabana. Nevertheless, as the say, the best food is always that which is homemade.
The family has the custom of receiving us with one of the traditional Bolivian treats, the falso conejo (faux rabbit) because they know how much we like it. The dish is always served with its faithful companion the llajua.
This is a hot sauce that is almost always found on the Bolivian table. A lunch without it would be like a day without sunshine. Llajua is made from tomatoes and Rocotos as they are called in Bolivia—we Peruvians call these hot peppers rocotos.—and often with a little local herb call quirquiña. Its secret is the love with which it is made and grinding it by hand with the traditional stone. That is the best.
Falso conejo is succulent. It is a breaded cutlet fried on both sides and then added to an orange colored sauce that thrills with its flavor. The dish is served with ample servings of boiled chuño (freeze dried potatoes) and boiled potatoes, with a topping of zarza, finely sliced onions, parsley and tomatoes. The dish comes together beautifully and is served like a towering mountains with its toping of loose delight.
It is easy to prepare, you just need to do so with attention to detail, with much patience, and with love. At least that is what Mrs. Olimpia said and she is the one who cooked up this meal for us.
Her sister, Mrs. Carmen is a specialist at grinding the hot sauce. She knows where to get the best peppers and tomatoes, and how to grind it so that it has a perfect consistency. She said only a few people really have the gift of making this sauce well and that the technique of doing so is disappearing as more and more people use blenders which makes a frothy substitute though it is best made on the grinding stone, the batán. When well made you just want to eat more and more of it even though it stings.
Food is best when eaten with your family or as a guest in other family’s home. That is where you find the most satisfaction. You talk and laugh, tease and play, all the while enjoying delicious food to your mouth. This is the best context for eating falso conejo.
The best of Bolivia life, like the Peruvian, is found in the home with family recipes.
This wonderful family always receives us with much love and with the treasure of their family cooking, in this case falso conejo. It is one of the most provocative that is offered in the traditional cuisine of La Paz, especially in the homes of its families.