I love visiting markets to get a sense, a hold of the pulse of a community and its diversity. When I visited Surquillo market near my house, out of convenience on a Saturday afternoon, I found it conveniently stocked with all sorts of fruits and fresh produce from different parts of Peru, a good part of which cannot be found outside of the country.
Potatoes, flour, seeds, nuts, vegetables, everything – assaults my senses from every direction. Cacao from the Amazon, Pacai, a fruit curiously shaped like a giant long bean, with flesh of cotton wool texture. Seagrapes, freshly harvested from the Pacific Ocean. I took a few and popped it into my mouth – the texture surprises me, its delicate skin bursting in my mouth. Among my favourites, are the custard apples, Chirimoya, which I often blend with ice and some pisco, to create a thick, sleep-inducing smoothie that winds me down from a long day navigating the City of Kings. A favourite is Lucuma, a custard-like fruit, that is used in ice creams. I find myself picking up and scrutinising a potato – amongst the potato piles. the small , pebble like potatoes, papalisa, catch my attention with its flourescent pink dots and a white centre, reminding me of Japanese daikon radish.
I am fascinated by everything, as a curious traveller often is when assaulted by the myriad of produce. The vendor at the fruit stand looks bored but still entertains all my queries about other fruits – ‘What is this?’, I ask for the umpteenth time, gesticulating for added measure. She is amused and very slightly annoyed, but I am not bothered. I cycle down to the farmer’s market around the corner. It is held at the nearby Parque Reducto, every Saturday. I planned to get some fresh milk – and sample from the huge offerings of of Andean cheeses along the way. Although vastly different in varieties, the stirring of people, wafts of espresso, I am vaguely reminded of the markets back home.
Dubbed the Boulevard of Gourmet Produce – the market is a must-stop on the tourist trail as well and a great introduction to the world of Peruvian gastronomy. For me, it also replaces the supermarket as a personal favourite to grocery shop, chat with the vendors, and grab some fresh flowers to brighten up the home.