Puerto Maldonado in southern Peru’s Amazon Basin has great tropical produce. Rocío and I enjoyed tasting the exotic flavours at markets, cafes and restaurants.
Central Market (Mercado Modelo)
Puerto Maldonado’s main market has the city’s best range of food with many fresh produce stalls and a restaurant section serving good value local cuisine.
Fruit and vegetable stalls at Puerto Maldonado’s Mercado Modelo; the green bundles in the bottom right contain banana leaves for cooking with
Fried river fish with potato chips, cassava, plantain, tomato and lettuce along with a plate of beans made for a filling and delicious meal at the market
Tiny, fiery and colourful chillies on sale at the market
Brazil nuts grown in the surrounding rainforest are processed in Puerto Maldonado. Raw Brazil nuts were cheap at the market, only costing 20 soles (AU$8) per kilogram.
Brazil nuts from the market: raw, sugar-coated and balls
Heladeria Copasu on Ernesto Rivero is named after copoasu (also known as cupuaçu and copoazu), a relative of cacao and a fruit used in drinks and ice cream. This ice cream and fast food cafe is a good place to try copoasu and other Amazonian flavours.
Cocona and copoasu fruit juices, pitanga and copoasu ice cream in a cup, a choripan royal burger and Amazonian hot sauce at Heladeria Copasu
El Califa Restaurant Cevicheria
El Califa specialises in one of Peru’s signature dishes, ceviche. Ceviche is raw fish or seafood cured with lime juice. At El Califa we enjoyed their freshwater fish ceviche accompanied by palm heart salad, stuffed rocoto chilli (rocoto relleno) and cashew fruit juice.
Nearby El Califa’s dining area they have an acerola (Barbados cherry) tree. Here I picked and sampled this sweet-sour fruit for the first time.
Two plates of ceviche, palm heart salad, stuffed rocoto chilli, cashew juice and in the middle, two acerolas at El Califa
Burgos’s is a highly rated and popular restaurant for good reason. Burgos’s incorporates Amazonian ingredients in stylish and original dishes.
Rocío and I with entrees at Burgos’s
The waiter serving a freshwater fish dish cooked in bamboo
We visited Burgos’s a second time for dessert: delicious Brazil nut cheesecake
The liqueur bottles in our room overlooking Billinghurst Bridge and Madre de Dios River
Brosteria & Chicharroneria Santa Elenita
Our favourite Puerto Maldonado food experience was the smoked fish (pescado ahumado) at Santa Elenita, a basic restaurant serving regional meals (comidas típicas). The pacu, a relation of the piranha, grilled with a smoky flavour, was scrumptious and thoroughly recommended. The meal was so good we returned for a repeat the following day.
Santa Elenita is located on the south side of Leon Velarde Street in between Tacna and Ica streets. Search it out!
Santa Elenita restaurant’s street front
Elenita’s Smoked paco accompanied by a plantain ball (tacacho), salad and cassava