Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Food in Ollantaytambo

After being spoiled by the wide, rich variety food of Lima and the less-wide-but-nonetheless-delicious food of Cuzco, arriving in Ollantaytambo just in time for a late lunch brought about an unfortunate surprise-- the town was more than just a little behind on keeping up with the food of other Peruvian cities. Embarrassingly, even Maras, the isolated, small mountain village had great (or at least significantly superior) food to offer. 

After splitting up to get lunch, Adaiah and I went to a generic-ish, okay-looking place. The first clue that the restaurant might not know what it was doing was in its postre display case.
At the time, I took this is a comical, sweetly innocent mistake as they attempted to appeal to their chocolate-chip-loving American tourist clientele.

Later, when the actual food came out, I was a little disappointed by the appearance of my food (the chicken looked a little dehydrated and had been darkened unnaturally), but I still had hope. A few bites in, I knew I should have ordered something more local. Instead of tasting like it was "oriental chicken" with the peanut sauce, it just tasted like chicken that had been dehydrated and then injected with salt water while cooking. For the first time this trip, I genuinely missed the restaurants from back home. 

For dinner, I held on to the hope that it was just that one place and that the food would be better elsewhere, so I went to the restaurant that Profe had intended for the group to go to to take advantage of the fixed price menu. I ordered spaghetti and papaya juice and waited. The food came out a little later, and I sipped the juice first. It was awful. It tasted like they had blended a partly-rotten papaya that was well on its way to fermentation. As for the spaghetti, the noodles themselves were alright--they are rather difficult to mess up beyond enjoyment-- but after a few bites I ended up eating around the meat and the cheese, which tasted a little off.

The one saving grace for Ollantaytambo food came from an ironic source-- a street meat vendor a block from the main plaza on the way to the bridge. 
I know that sounds sketchy, but this woman was my hero. I got a good whiff of what she had to offer on our way to get ice cream the first evening (which, to be fair, was pretty good in and of itself--but it's not exactly a meal), and it smelled amazing, but my instinct said "Don't buy meat from a street vendor." The next day, Adaiah and I decided to brave it. She had chicken sticks, beef sticks, and hot dog sticks. To my surprise, purchasing the meat sticks wasn't as simple as, "I want a stick" and her handing you one, but instead it consisted of "I want one," and she would take one, press it into the grill, spread a little oil and sauce on it and then spear a complimentary potato on the top. Not only were the sticks much more delicious than the food at the restaurants, but they were only two soles a pop! Having talked to Adaiah and I about the meat sticks, Jean, as seen in the photo, also decided to try them and finished off her two sticks in no time.

In short, if you're planning on visiting Ollantaytambo, bring lots of snacks and be sure to try this woman's meat stick stand!

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