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23 October 2012 / leggypeggy

Two surprising meals in Chivay

One of the best parts of travel is the chance to try unfamiliar foods in unfamiliar places.

Chivay (pronounced Chee-bye) is a popular jumping-off point for people wanting to see the condors of Colca Canyon in Peru. Like most tourist towns, it has eateries promoting pizzas, crepes, burgers, sandwiches, buffets and the like.

While Poor John and I have nothing against these dishes, we can and do have them at home, when travelling we go in search of markets or holes-in-the-wall serving local fare.

Chivay restaurant

El Labrador Restaurant

We had only one night in Chivay, so the hunt was on for dinner. We checked everything around the village square, so headed the opposite direction to see what we could find.

Three course dinner at El Labrador

Two blocks up the neon lights of El Labrador beckoned to us and when we drew level with the entrance, we could see that the place was packed—I mean packed—with locals.

The whiteboard menu outside listed a set menu and a bunch of extras. In we went and claimed the last table. We weren’t eyed with suspicion or curiosity, even though there was only one other female customer and a female waitress. Every seat was occupied, and I counted 23 male bums on them. But turnover was quick, and I’m guessing at least another 10 customers came during our meal. People stood outside waiting for seats to become free and would then join whatever table had space.

Without a word, the waitress brought us each a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a set of cutlery. A little later, she returned to clear away the bowls and ask it we wanted fried chicken or another choice we didn’t quite catch. We ordered one of each.

Peruvian menu

El Labrador’s menu the next day

Poor John had the chook (Aussie slang for chicken) and I had a casserole-y concoction with vegetables and a bit of meat, with rice on the side. The waitress soon reappeared with two bowls of thick purple syrup, which Poor John assumed was meant to be dribbled on the chook and rice. A glance around the restaurant told me it was dessert, so he took my advice and stopped adding it to his meal.

A huge pump-action thermos of hot water and a selection of tea bags—licorice, coca and chamomile—were brought to round out the meal.

A very native-looking fellow at the next table wasn’t quite sure how to operate the thermos, so managed to squirt water across his table. No one batted an eye or raised a laugh.

We went to the counter to settle the bill. ‘How much?’ we asked. ‘Ten soles,’ she said. ‘Each?’ we queried. ‘No, for both.’

So we paid less than $4 for two three-course meals. The food wasn’t gourmet, but it was tasty, healthy and filling, and the atmosphere was perfect. The waitress was thrilled with a 50-cent tip, and I’m still kicking myself that I forgot to take my camera. I went back the next day to grab a couple of snaps.

Off to the market for lunch

Filleting fish

Our vendor was a dab hand with a knife—filleting fish

We returned to Chivay after a morning expedition to see the condors of Colca Canyon. Our guide gave us a mere 35 minutes to have lunch, so Jong, Poor John and I headed straight for the market.

We’d seen the lunch spread there the day before and were keen to try a couple of local specialties.

After a cruise of the stalls, we settled on the only one selling rocoto rellenos (stuffed peppers/capsicums). These are a Peruvian favourite and this was the first time I had seen them being served.

The three of us ordered a mish-mash of the woman’s dishes, including the peppers, fried rice and a potato bake, and wolfed them down. She was also filleting and frying fish, but we decided we didn’t have enough time to order that too. That was a pity, as the fellow sitting next to us ordered it and it looked delicious.

Rocoto rellenos

Rocoto rellenos—a Peruvian favourite

Potato bake

Potato bake

Time to pay came and she demanded 35 soles (or about $14)! ‘But, but that’s robbery. That’s a tourist price,’ said an aghast Poor John. The vendor didn’t miss the opportunity to point out we were indeed tourists. Poor John pressed on and haggled it down to 15 soles for the three of us, which was still probably over-priced, especially after our three-course-meal experience the night before at El Labrador.

That said, the rocoto rellenos were sensational and far better than the other versions I had before we left Peru. They were filled with spiced meat, vegetables and a little gravy, then topped with goat’s cheese and finished under the grill. I’ll post a recipe when I find a respectable one. Some testing will be required. 🙂


Leave a Comment
  1. turkeytonorway / Oct 23 2012 8:43 pm

    Yum, that looks delicious. I can’t wait to be a guinea pig for you to test the recipes you find on.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2012 9:54 pm

      Careful what you wish for—they eat guinea pigs in Peru. hahaha
      That said, I’ve bought some cookbooks, so you’ll be in luck. We can experiment together.


  2. turkeytonorway / Oct 23 2012 8:45 pm

    PS I love the turquoise paint at El Labrador!


    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2012 9:55 pm

      Then you need to know that the interior is painted hot pink.



  1. Welcome to Chivay in the Colca Valley « Where to next?

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