Mistura

 True Arches of Gold signifying culinary treasures within

It is here again; Mistura, the comestible festival. This 11 days of awesomeness is in its fifth year and is a prominent feature in the Lima cultural calendar. It’s easy to see why. I may have hinted in previous posts that Peruvians have a huge amount of pride in their national cuisine. This culminates in Mistura, the Glastonbury of gastronomy, featuring celebrity chefs, restaurants, cuisine and foodstuffs from the various regions of Peru as well as from a number of other countries. As with all good things in life, there is of course controversy around this festival. Making its home this year in the Campo de Marte, a large park near the centre of the city in the pleasant district of Jesús María (recently judged to have the cleanest air in Lima) the organisers were accused of uprooting or destroying trees and concreting over green areas to set up the stalls. There were a couple of weeks of protests, Facebook petitions and media spats but the upshot was that the organisers solemnly swore that although some plants and trees had been moved, they were going to be put back, and that in fact they had made a commitment to the municipality to leave the park in a better state than that in which they found it. A great blog report from Global Voices Online gives a really good run-down of the festival and of the arguments around it. Conscience salved, I bought my ticket.

The stall areas are divided into ‘traditional’ (ceviche, desserts, fruit juices, seafood and noodles) ‘rustic’ (pork on a stick, deep fried pork, drum-smoked pork, cuy, lots of potatoes) restuarants, the bread area, the chocolate area, and the coffee and pisco area. There’s also the ‘Gran Mercado’ a central market offering an array of goods from potatoes, to the jungle superfruit camu camu, a range of breads, chocolates, coffees, honeys, fruits, a delicious goats milk ice-cream stall, a huge variety of grains, including, of course, varieties of quinua.

Bready wonder An airborne preview of the doughy delights on offer

The smells of smoking meats waft through the air as the hungry hordes hunt down their favourite dishes or must-try delicacies. We opted for a juane from the jungle: a plaintian-leaf wrapped rice and chicken snack. This was followed up by a hearty helping of chicharon de chancho al fogón (pork, deep fried over a wood fire) which came with hearty spuds.

To walk off my pork belly, it was time to ramble over to the pisco and coffee zone where we hoped for free samples. Unfortunately we had made a miscalculation. No one was giving out free booze on a Friday night. However there were myriad brightly coloured, fruit infused cocktails to marvel at, as well as a wall full of pisco bottles – over 1000 according to the blurb.

From there we strolled down a half kilometre line of restaurant stalls offering everything from sushi and ‘chifa’ (a Latin American / Chinese hybrid) to Peruvian regulars ceviche (raw fish, ají and sweet potatoes), and anticuchos (beef heart on a stick) and all manner of things with rice.

At the other end of this we found the chocolate zone. A true marvel of the possibilites of chocolatey goodness. We scooped up samples of chocolate sushi rolls, chocolate flavoured with pineapple; chocolate flavoured with coffee, chocolate with 75% cocoa solids, sugar-free chocolate with 99% cocoa solids. There were also chocolate fountains for coating fruit-on-a-stick. A very suitable dessert.

Finally, as the stalls started to close and the lights went out at 10.30, we headed for home. On arrival at our nearest bus stop we were greeted by one of my favourite features of Lima living; the pastry bike box. Street vendors cycle from one busy corner to the next with a glass box mounted on the front of their tricycle which displays all manner of pastry goods, most either coated with or filled with manjar blanco, a kind of dulce de leche. So to finish off the night I purchased an alfajor for the road. Result.

The Gran Mercado is constructed around the monument commemorating the 1942 war with Ecuador

The market around the monument’s base

There’s always at least one wanka at a festival

Frying pork and the woodpile stacked and ready

Andean delicacy. Yes, it’s pan fried guinea-pig with the ubiquitous Inca Kola in the foreground

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