Hoy fuimos al Mercado Central y el Barrio Chino en el centro de Lima. We've been to a number of markets in our travels together - Mexico City, on the side of the road in Swaziland, Osaka, Nishiki in Kyoto, Tokyo, Durban (South Africa), Lake Malawi, Bombay, Rajasthan, Madurai (Tamil Nadu, India) - but this one had the cleanest and most extensive meat market either of us have ever seen.
It made you want to buy un cabrito (a kid) and take it home to roast it on a spit. The market is in a huge warehouse. If you're ever been outside of the US you've probably seen a warehouse with all these tiny tiendas organized in perfect little rows by type. They sell anything from bleach to pigs feet and everything in between. On nearby streets there were all sorts of electronics, but the main area of the Central Market was dedicated to foods. Three rows for foul, three rows for pork, three rows for dried goods, three rows for fruits, one row for salchichas (sausages) and on and on like that. Below is a taste.
We will be returning to this market and sampling all the others once we get into our apartment (tomorrow!) and figure out what kind of cooking situation we have in store. Do we have a pot big enough for a whole chicken with feet and head?...
Our first sight when we walked in was little bags of quail eggs hanging from a store. During rush hour street vendors pull up near the cars and sell boiled peeled quail eggs with a spicy salsa to those in traffic. Alongside the eggs were perfectly plucked chickens strung up on hooks.
These are the unborn eggs that western chefs so highly praise. Except instead of being part of a $100 tasting menu they're for all to enjoy. About 20% of the split foul we saw had unborn eggs inside.
Here they're selling dried apricots (damasca), cherries, pecans (pecana) in and out of the shell, raisins (pasas), chickpeas (garbanzo), canary beans (frioles canaria), split peas, etc.
These are freeze-dried potatoes (chuño blanco), the result of an Incan process still used today. To make chuño blanco they took recently harvested and good quality potatoes, covered them in straw and exposed them to freezing nighttime temperatures. After four days of freezing and thawing they submerged them for a month in freezing Andean river water to remove the bitterness. Then the potatoes were frozen again overnight. The following day they were stomped on to remove the skin and excess water. Then they were laid out in the sun for 10 to 15 days. The chuño can be ground into flour or soaked in water for cooking and has a much longer shelf life than a mere potato.
Hay muchas tiendas se venden aceitunas (olives) y queso de cabra (goat cheese) y queso de vaca (cow cheese), and also specialty regional cheeses like queso andino (queso fresco made in the Andes).
Un cabrito lista para al asador (a kid ready for the spit!).
Mondongo or tripa (tripe) hanging above a stand that also sold cut tripe, corazon de vaca (heart), riñon (kidney), lengua (tongue) and higado (liver).
Cerebro de cerdo (self-explanatory, no?).
After walking by all the delicious-looking sea creatures, we stopped by a cevicheria por un plato de ceviche. Under all that algae and corn is deliciously fresh fish (bonito and talapia) along with a scallop or two that has been soaked in lime for a few minutes (or in this market maybe a few hours) to cook it. The fish broth (in the bowl to the left) was also excellent.
There were many people out in the streets returning from work, cashing their paychecks at the banks and Western Unions and buying anything from candy flowers to kids notebooks to flashlights to something as humble as a shoe. We were especially fond of this couple strolling peacefully through all the fray.