Bolivia is one of the least-expensive countries in South America for travelers. A meal at a basic restaurant should cost no more than (Bs)20, and even at the most elegant restaurants you can eat well for between (Bs)50 and (Bs)80.
Bolivian cuisine is healthful, wholesome, and satisfying, if lacking the finer touch. Cheaper eateries go for quantity as much as quality, so avoid over-ordering, as dishes can often be shared. Soups make a complete meal in themselves, loaded with meat, potatoes, vegetables, and quinoa. Look out for the peanut soup—it’ll change your ideas about nuts. Fresh trout from Lake Titicaca is fried, stuffed, steamed, grilled, spiced, or covered in a rich sauce. Another excellent, delicate fish from the lake is pejerrey, which is especially good in cebiche, a cold marinated fish dish often eaten midmorning. Set lunch–almuerzo or almuerzo executivo—is always good value, whether it’s in a fancy restaurant or from a market stall. Many meals are served with a spicy sauce called llajwa, made from local hot peppers called locoto. It comes in various shades, and you’ll soon be addicted. A safe and tasty street food is sonso, cassava flour and cheese on a stick, grilled on a little barbecue on the sidewalk.
In the highlands, where carbohydrates are the dietary mainstay, they freeze-dry potatoes, then soak them overnight and boil them. The result, chuño and tunta, is then used to accompany main dishes and is traditionally highly valued. Other traditional fare includes asado de llama, roast llama, and pique macho, beef grilled with hot peppers, chopped tomatoes, and onions, often served with fried potatoes and gravy. Snacks include salteñasand tucumanas, pastries filled with meat, chicken, or vegetables. Eating these without having them explode all over your clothes takes skill, so watch how the locals do it. Over your Sunday newspaper you can try api, a delicious hot drink made from purple corn and served with deep-fried pastries. Something to look for in La Paz: the Melting Pot Foundation (started by Claus Meyer, the famous Danish restaurateur behind Noma) has created a side project called Suma Phayata. It consists of a circuit of food stalls offering traditional street food that are operated by locals who have been trained to work under international hygiene standards (www.meltingpot-bolivia.org).