The department of Oruro and its capital of the same name are more than 3700 meters above sea level, in the middle of the altiplanic plateau in the south-west of Bolivia. Its exotic cuisine is based on lamb and llama.
This is a selection with the best typical dishes of Oruro for you to try when traveling to the Bolivian highlands.
1. Roasted face
Let’s start with a dish that is part of the region’s folklore: roasted face.
Among the typical dishes of Oruro, roasted face is one of the most iconic. It is the head of the lamb with its skin cooked in the oven. The result is a dish of exquisite flavor that represents Oruro gastronomy.
The recipe is so local that there are songs that sing praises of its deliciousness and anecdotes about its consumption.
To prepare it, only good and fresh lamb heads with their wool are required. They are cleaned with a toothbrush, covered with salt and boiled in water. Then they are salted again and baked in a tray with water. The skin of the heads is removed when the meat is cooked and they are ready to eat.
The dish is so flavorful that it doesn’t need seasoning. It is accompanied with rice and potatoes.
2. Charquekan from Oruro
Another of the typical dishes of Oruro that you should try is the charquekan prepared with llama or beef jerky.
The charque or charqui is as it is known in South America to the meat that is dehydrated in the sun, to be preserved for prolonged periods.
It is a pre-Hispanic method that began with the meat of wild guanacos and that was incorporated into cattle when it arrived in America by the Spanish.
Its preparation begins the night before by putting the charque in water to extract the excess of salt used to preserve the meat. The next day it is drained and boiled in new water for 15 minutes.
The charque slices are placed in a batán (tacú, grinding stone) and shredded until they can be easily shredded with the fingers. The meat can also be put inside a plastic bag to be hit with a hammer or other blunt object. It is fried in oil until it is crispy and is accompanied with mote, hard-boiled egg, potatoes with the skin and fried cheese.
The typical dish of Oruro mayor is a feast of meats and sausages that includes lamb, beef, pork, chicken, sausage and offal.
The recipe can also include kidney, lamb rib, pieces of fat tripe, veal heart, pork chops and chorizo, chicken pieces and roast beef loin.
The kidney, the chorizo, the heart and the chop are roasted in small pieces, seasoned with garlic and salt and the sliced loin is fried separately.
The chicken pieces are boiled in water and the fat tripe and the lamb rib are cooked in the same liquid. These ingredients are browned in oil until crispy.
The carnivorous festival is accompanied with potatoes, granulated rice and a salad of lettuce, tomato, onion and hot pepper.
The mayor was a government official who inspected restaurants and commercial premises to verify compliance with hygiene and health standards. The Orureños entertained him with this feast and hence the name of the dish.
Lake Poopo is the second largest in Bolivia after Titicaca and is in the department of Oruro, 92 km south of the departmental capital.
After recovering its water level after drying up at the end of 2015, 100,000 pejerrey fingerlings were planted, which has made it possible to provide work and ensure the subsistence of 14 fishermen’s cooperatives.
In Oruro not much fish is eaten due to its location, so recipes with pejerrey are occasional delicacies accompanied by boiled potatoes and rice.
One of the preferred preparations is fried silverside after being coated in a mixture of eggs, baking powder, milk, salt and pepper. It is sauced with a typical drowned orureño.
The llama is a camelid mammal that abounds in the highlands and in the Andean puna. It derives from the wild guanaco domesticated by the natives and can weigh up to 200 kg. It is used for its meat and wool and is used as a pack animal. One of the popular altiplano recipes with llama meat is condori, a kind of fricassee.
It is prepared with pieces of llama meat, especially the back, which are boiled with water, salt and yellow chili pods. Towards the end of cooking add garlic, pepper and cumin. It is accompanied with chuño and fresh cooked potatoes.
Llama meat contains high-quality protein and its amount of fat is considerably less compared to cuts from other animals.
Its proportion of cholesterol is more than 10 times lower than that of beef and pork, being one of the healthiest sources of protein and vitamins among foods of animal origin.
One of the classics of highland cuisine is api, a drink made with ground purple and yellow corn grains.
The proportions of each corn give rise to different shades of color and each mixer has its own particular recipe. It has sugar, cinnamon, cloves and fruits.
It is a thick porridge that is drunk hot to combat the cold, although there is also a version to refresh.
The ground corn is cooked in water with cinnamon sticks, then adding sugar to taste. Although there is no definitive evidence about its place of origin, it is admitted that the recipe is from Oruro.
The common accompaniment is a cheese empanada fried in oil, although it is also drunk eating fritters and cakes.
It is a drink that is taken especially in the morning and in the evening, but it can be eaten at any time of the day.
The api sold in the Mercado Fermín López, 3 blocks from Plaza 10 de Febrero, is highly appreciated in Oruro.
7. Shoulder of lamb
Sheep has been a staple food in the highlands since sheep arrived in the New World, and brazuelo or shoulder of lamb, prepared with the front legs of an animal less than a year old, is one of the typical dishes of Oruro.
The other ingredients in the recipe are ground seasonings (pepper, cumin), vegetable seasonings (onion, celery, and parsley), freshly ground yellow pepper, and salt.
The brazuelos are dressed with half of the ground spices, salt, onion, celery and parsley and cooked with water in a pressure cooker. Once cooked, the rest of the spices and the yellow chili are added and they are baked, brushed with oil (they can also be fried in enough hot oil).
The usual garnishes in Oruro for lamb shoulder are peeled and cooked white potatoes, rice seasoned with minced garlic and onion, and a salad of lettuce, onion, and tomato.
8. Pumpkin soup
The pumpkin or pumpkin is a species native to South America that grows wild in the southern cone. It has been known for more than 6,000 years in Peru, Bolivia and other Andean countries and is part of many popular dishes due to its low cost and nutritional value.
In Oruro it is prepared with a poultry stock based on chicken offal, onion, carrot and parsley. The soup can contain nuts, cream, cheese and cured ham or prosciutto.
The pumpkin pieces with onion slices are sautéed in oil, seasoning to taste and then pouring the chicken stock.
Let cool, blend and reheat in a saucepan until it comes to a boil. Chopped nuts, heavy cream, grated cheese (preferably Parmesan) and finally a pinch of coriander are added. The soup is served with slices of cured ham browned in the pan and a dollop of sour cream.
9. Orureña-style llama rice
The Llamarada is a typical Bolivian dance from both sides of Lake Titicaca inspired by the grazing of llamas, with a religious content as a bearer of good luck.
The dancers hold a small flame in their left hand while spinning a slingshot in their right. The orureña style llama rice gets its name because its main ingredient is llama jerky.
It also has peas, broad beans, carrot, red pepper and onion. The charque is cooked in a pressure cooker and then shredded in the batán, then crumbled with your fingers and fried in a mixture of oil and butter until crisp.
Separately, fry the peas and broad beans over low heat, add diced carrots and peppers, homogeneously grained rice and onion, adding the charque and hot water at the end. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the rice is loose.
10. Dried pea chili
The dry peas chili is a dish prepared with beef, cooked dry peas, carrot, peeled potato, tomato, onion, rocoto, fried and ground red chili and other condiments such as chopped parsley, oregano, toasted garlic cloves, sugar and Salt.
The pieces of beef are browned in oil and then finely chopped rocoto, carrot, onion and tomato are added, plus the ground chili and the other condiments, covering with water to cook for an hour. At the end, the precooked peas and the potato are added and left over low heat until everything is cooked. It is served hot.
Like all legumes, peas are an excellent source of vegetable protein, fiber and minerals.
11. Lamb lamb
This is another of the many ways that Oruro and the highlands have to eat lamb. The recipe is prepared with a boneless leg of lamb, 3 hot peppers (red and green), 5 gherkins, 3 onions, 4 carrots, water and salt and pepper to taste.
The leg of lamb is boned, taking care that it is like a bag, and it is filled with the red peppers chopped into strips, the whole gherkins and the carrots and finely chopped onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste and sew the bag of meat by the part where the ingredients were put so that it is closed.
It is cooked with water in a pressure cooker until the lamb is cooked and then the bag is fried on its sides in hot oil. Thick slices are cut to eat accompanied with French fries and rice.
In the list of typical dishes of Oruro, thimpu stands out, whose name seems to be the conversion of the word “time” into the Aymara language.
This dish is prepared with lamb meat, preferably leg meat. It is a variant of the Spanish stew, resulting in a solid and complete meal.
Put water in a pot and when it breaks the boil add the lamb meat along with salt and diced onion and carrot. It is cooked until the animal softens and is left with a broth in the background.
The dish is eaten with a sauce that Bolivians call ahogado, prepared with a sauce of chopped onion, garlic and chili, plus part of the broth from cooking the lamb.
Traditionally it is accompanied with chuño, potato dehydrated by the Andeans to preserve it for a long time. The chuño is washed in water and cooked with a little salt. Other common side dishes are fresh cooked potatoes and white rice.
The chorizo comes from the Iberian Peninsula and its production technique, as well as the main animals used to make it, such as the pig and the cow, came to the New World by the Spanish.
The chorizos in Plaza de La Ranchería are another symbol of Oruro gastronomy, a public space from colonial times where they are prepared and sold.
They are made of seasoned ground beef and served with mote and rolls. El Calvario and Mercado Campero are other points of sale, especially in the carnival season.
14. Cinnamon Ice Cream
Among Oruro’s desserts, one of the most appreciated is cinnamon ice cream, popularized during the first half of the 20th century when the city experienced a time of prosperity.
Back then it was common to find them in the markets of Fermín López, La Ranchería and Campero, especially during the winter season.
The tradition is maintained in family homes and in the Fermín López market, for which the ice cream was declared a Departmental Heritage. Its basic ingredients are granulated sugar, cinnamon sticks, cornstarch, lemon juice and water.
Boil 2 cinnamon sticks in 5 cups of water and when the volume has decreased by 20%, add 1 ¼ cup of granulated sugar and boil for another 5 minutes.
A tablespoon of cornstarch is dissolved in 2 tablespoons of cold water and added to the preparation, cooking for another 5 minutes. After cooling a little, add a tablespoon of lemon juice and after cooling completely, take it to the freezer.
15. Scrambled eggs with charque
Charque is used for everything in the Altiplano and with only ¼ kilo you can prepare a recipe that can serve 4 people.
The ingredients are charque de llama, an onion, a green pepper, 4 potatoes, 3 eggs, 2 tablespoons of chopped chives, one of butter, vegetable oil and salt and pepper to taste.
The onion and pepper cut into julienne strips are fried in a frying pan until they are crystalline, seasoning to taste. Peel, chop and fry the potatoes and add the chopped chives.
In another frying pan, mix ½ tablespoon of oil with the tablespoon of butter and fry the quarter kilo of charque previously cooked for 20 minutes in a pressure cooker. Add the potatoes to the charque with the fried onion and pepper plus 3 eggs and cook over high heat for minutes with the pan covered, stirring several times. It is accompanied with rice.
Typical drinks of Oruro
Mocochinchi and pineapple chicha are typical drinks from Oruro and from all over Bolivia.
The first is a cold drink made from dehydrated peaches boiled in water with cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. At the end, add a syrup to the point of caramelizing and mix until smooth.
Pineapple chicha is made with a very ripe fruit. It is peeled, cut into slices and put in a jar together with the shells plus 2 liters of water and half a portion of caramel. The jar is covered and in 3 days there is already fermentation. The chicha will be ready to drink.
Typical dishes of Oruro: dumplings
In Bolivia they say masita to a sweet pastry. The main typical pastries of Oruro and the country are gaznates, muffins, churros, fried cuñapés, almond crescents, pumpkin bread and racacha cake.
The sweet throats are based on wheat flour, egg yolks and dulce de leche, with a touch of cognac.
The cuñapés are kneaded with cassava starch, cheese, eggs and milk. The queque is a Bolivian and Andean cake and the racacha cake is prepared with this tuberous root also called Creole celery, arracache and white carrot.
Typical Bolivian dishes: Tarija and Potosí
Tarija and Potosí are Bolivian departments and cities in the south of the country. The city of Tarija is located almost 2,000 meters above sea level, 656 km southeast of Oruro. Potosí is more than 4000 meters above sea level and 311 km southeast of Oruro.
A wonderful typical dish from Tarija is saice chapaco, the highest emblem of Tarija cuisine. It is prepared with minced meat, peas, potatoes, red chili and other condiments and is accompanied with rice and a tomato and onion salad.
A delicious and symbolic typical dish of Potosí is the achacana chili, which contains achacana root (cactus native to the Andes), llama charque and ground red chili. It is served accompanied by chuño and mote.
Which of these typical Oruro dishes do you find most appetizing? Share the article with your friends so that they also know what they can’t stop eating when they visit the Bolivian highlands.
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