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Eating on the cheap at the Pisac Sunday Market

May 22, 2012 by Lauren in Food, Peru, Travel Stories with 8 Comments

I can’t recall how we got the notion in our heads, but Peru is not a bargain travel destination. After a few too many expensive and yet disappointing restaurant meals, Todd and I are thrilled by the food stalls at the Pisac Sunday Market.

The market vendors offer street food at its best: local dishes made with seasonal ingredients, cooked fresh, and served hot enough assure us that we won’t need to pop Cipro later. The food is wholesome and filling—and very, very cheap.

Lomo saltado with lentils, Pisac Sunday Market, Peru photo

Lomo saltado with lentils

Staying safe when eating street food is usually as easy as saying no to uncooked food. We regretfully skip the dazzling purple and red colored beet, tomato, and onion salad that comes with a plate of lomo saltado, accepting an extra ladle of lentil stew from the hard-working cook instead.

The one blissful ignorance of food safety rules we allow ourselves in Pisac and throughout Peru is for salsa picante. Spice addicts that we are, we convince ourselves that the fiery aji renders any hot sauce safe to consume. Besides, for spice this good we’re willing to take a chance.

Choclo con queso, Pisac Sunday Market, Peru photo

Choclo con queso

We’d been told that the corn in Pisac would be at its peak, the best we’d find in the Sacred Valley as the local growing season trails to an end. In season apparently means popular, as we pass by dozens of pots of boiling choclo throughout the town’s main square.

We trade a coin for a cob and are handed a steaming ear still wrapped in its husk, smeared with a paste of cilantro and hot pepper, along with a chunk of fresh country queso for co-chewing. Todd takes a messy bite of the corn before we notice how easily the locals snap off the large kernels with their fingers, one by one. It tastes earthy and starchy, not at all sweet like the summer corn we’re used to in the U.S.

Corn soup, Pisac Sunday Market, Peru photo

Corn soup with aji amarillo hot sauce

At a busy booth, a woman doles out bowls of soup, porridge thick. “Maíz!” a man at the table tells us as we squeeze onto a wooden bench. We ford the yellow pool with our spoons and find chunks of potato, fava beans, and bone-in meat stewed to tender shreds. “Vaca!” we’re informed, as if mystery meat could stop us from emptying our bowl of the savory, satisfying soup.

Once we finish, without a signal or word, the woman in charge takes our bowl and starts to refill it. Unsure whether this is a smooth upsell technique or simply the way it’s done, we quickly say “No no no,” patting our bellies with a smile to avoid insulting the cook.

After trying several disappointing vegetarian empanadas from shops on Mariscal Castilla street, we wander into Inti Killa on Manuel Prado just south of the square.

Inti Killa restaurant in Pisac, Peru photo

Inti Killa restaurant in Pisac

Though we’re put off by the empanaderia‘s tourist-ready signage, inside we inhale a promising smoke from the horno tipico colonial. Looking neither colonial nor typical, the oven’s rounded top is covered with soot-blackened sculptures of the sacred puma, condor, and snake.

Empanadas in the oven at Inti Killa, Pisac, Peru photo

Empanadas in the oven at Inti Killa in Pisac

After waiting for our carne empanadas to warm for just a brief minute next to the wood fire, it takes an even briefer minute to devour them.

Carne empanada at Inti Killa, Pisac, Peru photo

Carne empanada at Inti Killa in Pisac

Would you take a chance and eat the street food at the Pisac Sunday Market?

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  1. AyngelinaMay 22, 2012Reply

    Really you didn’t think Peru was cheap? The buses are not but the food in the market is such a good price.

    • LaurenMay 22, 2012ReplyAuthor

      We have been entirely spoiled by our extensive South East Asia travels. I’d gotten the idea that traveling in South America was comparable, but even the popular-with-locals restaurants were pricy. Thank gahd for street food!

  2. KateMay 23, 2012Reply

    The food looks amazing – I would eat street food there in a second if it all tastes as good as it looks in your pics. The corn soup looks especially tasty!

    • LaurenMay 23, 2012ReplyAuthor

      It all did taste pretty awesome. In my recollecting, I’ve tried to factor out the biasing influences of eating outside on bright, sunny day, surrounded by so much fascinating people watching. One of the benefits of street food is definitely a unique atmosphere!

  3. Mark WiensMay 25, 2012Reply

    All that food looks delicious, especially the lomo saltado with lentils. Yes, I’d definitely be willing and ready to sample everything in this market!

    • LaurenMay 26, 2012ReplyAuthor

      You’re the first person to vote for the lomo & lentils! Everyone else has empanadas dancing in their eyes.

  4. Stephanie - The Travel ChicaMay 27, 2012Reply

    Looks pretty tasty to me!

    • LaurenMay 27, 2012ReplyAuthor

      And yet so many people we met in Peru would never have tried it simply because it wasn’t served in a restaurant. But, I suppose that leaves more for us!

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