CommentaryTraditional FoodTravel

The Enchanting Tucumanas of La Paz

To wander the streets of El Alto and of La Paz, Bolivia is thrilling and involving. You rub shoulders with its people, each with their different concerns and tasks. They maintain their own ways and traditions. To be in La Paz is not just to see amazing people, it is also to submerge yourself in its gastronomy.

Bolivia’s cuisine shows a mixing of ingredients that vary from place to place. You see them in the different traditional dishes of La Paz and other cities. In just a brief three or four days, while visiting El Alto and La Paz, we saw and tried a variety of Bolivia foods.

The caseras (vendors) in the streets offered us many tasty foods, from tucumanas to tripitas, salteñas to albóndigas and asado de res, each filled with flavor.

All of these delicacies are reflected in the elegance of the women who prepare and sell them from before sunrise. They show you the delights of eating in the street. You see their colorful skirts, their bright shawls, their hats and shoes, each with special and traditional designs that say “I am a paceña”. These adornments are there and provide background whenever you take them up on their offers and have some food.

Street Food, a stand of Tucumanas and Salteñas Street Food, a stand of Tucumanas and Salteñas
Street Food, a Stand of Tucumanas and Salteñas

It is a delicious and pleasing sensation to try a delicious tucumana empanada, juicy and savory. It brings you the essence of its preparation, along with the filling made from meat, condiments, onions, carrots, and boiled eggs. Of course cumin is always present. The women fry them up right there in big metal pots until they are crispy and properly brown.

The caserita who sold them to us in the Parque del Minero in El Alto, Bolivia set up wooden benches to the side of her burner. They were not very long and there her clients would sit throughout the day to enjoy these snacks. They are put together beautifully and are especially good with a bit of llajwa, the traditional Bolivia hot sauce of ground tomatoes and locotos (rocotos for us). How will I ever forget them.They enchanted me.

Tucumanas on Display
Tucumanas on Display

Our casera served them up on little plastic plates along with a spoon. The center piece far surpasses the presentation, a golden mass of fried dough filled with a spicy and delicious filling. With the first spoonful you enjoy it and slowly savor the ingredients and flavor, if you can avoid just gobbling it up; it is so good.

After this I was fascinated with the street food of El Alto and of La Paz. The mixture of flavors presented by its dishes made me want to be there and want to eat and eat.

The street food is a festival of colors, scents, and flavors that trap any visitor who is open to trying their delights. You will experience wonderful moments chatting with caseras and fellow diners, at the same time the delicious flavors will leave you speechless with delight. It is worth going to El Alto and to La Paz just for delights of the street, such as its tucumanas.

Potato Cake
Potato Cake


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