When people learn that I am not from La Paz, the first thing they ask is: What plate have you liked most so far?
It’s usually followed up by a long conversation about Bolivian food, the 300 types of potatoes that can be found here, and many recommendations of places and plates to try before I leave. Bolivians love talking about their food, and love sharing it too! Each plate seems to have its own story, mixed in between the many different spices and flavors that make each entree unique. Bolivian food symbolizes their culture and is their vehicle of patriotism and pride. It’s beautiful to watch the facial expressions of a Bolivian as s/he talks about the food: its a beautiful combination of joy, longing, and peace that comes from simply imagining the food.
I’ve connected with many people, thanks to this awesome conversation starter. As someone who is not from Bolivia, I offer a fresh perspective on what typical foods are served in the United States. I usually comment on the variety of food that America has to offer, thanks to the melting pot! We usually end up talking about Vietnamese food, because there are barely any Vietnamese people here in this country. Bolivians are always so curious about the typical plates that I eat, how we prepare it, and what ingredients are used.
Another tip that I would have for any traveler: It is so important to try any food that is offered to you! Even if you don’t like it, it’s an act of respect to try what s/he finds so valuable to the culture. For example, I felt a bit hesitant to try pickled pig feet, but ended up loving it!
To thank my friend’s family for hosting me, I made them a typical Vietnamese dish: Pho!
My host family appreciated the opportunity to try new flavors and, more importantly, have a cultural exchange through food. I was surprised that they ate it all!
I also made my coworkers from Elemental Goi Cuon on our last day of work!
Essentially, its Vietnamese spring roll. Over the past 3 weeks that I was here, they had always asked me about Vietnamese food. They were so curious! I was lucky to find a Korean and Chinese market that had all the ingredients necessary to make goi cuon.