Side note: Despite a month-long hiatus from blogging, my food obsession and adventures have only multiplied in the last few weeks that I have been traveling to Machu Picchu, the Amazon, and now, Santiago, Chile. I write to you as I sit perched in a zebra rug clad hostel where the music blasting ranges from Rihanna to Beatles songs—a refreshing but peculiar air of English fills the room. I am finally relieved to be based somewhere for at least five days where I have all the access I could ever want to wi-fi. Given my lack of internet over the past month, in my next few posts I will retrace the momentous meals I’ve devoured.
Now to get started on the big slab of meat you’ve been staring at for at least a couple of minutes by now! It’s called Chicharrón, the Spanish word for what is essentially fried pork rinds. While Chicharrón can also come in chicken or beef, in Perú it’s a lunchtime staple as well as a common appetizer as the traditional pork product. The platter is typically served alongside fried yuca, potatoes, and a spicy onion and pepper dressing to add just a little kick. Peruvians will always ask for a side of ají cream (in essence, ají hot pepper and mayonnaise) for dipping the fried meat and surrounding potato variations.
I consumed this very platter at the Arequipeñan food festival FestiSabores, where my Arequipeñan family and I ate one of our last large Sunday lunches together. In a limited menu caused by the masses of people exiting the Plaza with stomachs out to the sky, I gave into mob mentality and picked what everyone else in my family was having for lunch. I’d heard of Chicharrón before and was secure in the fact that anything fried was bound to be pretty good. I wasn’t disappointed.
In retrospect, the fried meat resembled a country fried steak that I remembered eating at a fraternity lunch in Davidson (thanks to Jen’s cooking in the SAE house). In general, Chicharrón is strikingly similar to a country fried meat; the chicken variety that I’ve since tried bears more than resemblance but also the same taste to the American South’s country fried chicken. Was I happy with my meal? Of course I was happy with the thick portion of pork, covered in buttery, oily, and breaded fried dough with crispy and crunchy ends of surplus fried batter. Wouldn’t that make you happy? Yet again, the way I felt after eating all of that fried food—the first REALLY fried food I can remember eating in Arequipa—that was another story. However sometimes there must be a little sacrifice for food. If a few smelly gases coming out of you and laying off the ice cream for a couple of days are all the significant changes, a good Chicharrón can really do no harm.
Let’s be honest though. We all know I was eating an ice cream by the next day.