Two weeks ago, my husband and I spent the day wandering around the huge Peruvian gastronomical festival that is Mistura. It’s kind like a State Fair (for those familiar with them in the States) with lots of foods and exhibits about foods, except there are no terrifying beat-up rides, no yucky greasy food that will have you running for the porta-potties, and no motorcycle events or pig races. Ok, so I guess that’s my stereotyped version of a North Carolina State Fair, but Mistura is totally different.
Mistura covers a giant area of land along Magdelena del Mar AKA beachfront in Lima. It features all sorts of foods and cuisines (divided into Worlds) and natural resources from Peru, including food from the North, South, Amazon, Creole, Chinese food, sandwiches, sweets, and ceviche. The range of comida is astounding, and if I had the time and money (and stomach) I would try one of everything!
Mistura is tricky because there are parts of the fair that accept money (Peruvian soles), but most parts only accept meal tickets, which can be purchased in S./20, S./50, or S./100 amounts. Most foods will cost you S./13, leaving S./7 which can get you a drink (juice, smoothie), or a dessert. For the two of us, I exchanged S./50 for the meal tickets, and we were able to eat a lot between the two of us (plus samples!), and ended up with S./2 tickets left over… oops.
Once we were inside, we knew we wanted to start with food! One of the most famous foods at the fair is Chancho al Palo, and it’s one of the first things you smell upon entering the gates! There were lots of stands selling Chancho al Palo, and the most famous one had the longest line. We were so hungry we chose the shortest line, and devoured the food in minutes after taking pictures of it. Chancho and Anticuchos cost S./16.
Beer World is new this year, and while husband and I aren’t beer drinkers, he was obligated to take pictures since he had a press pass. The World is a big area, with vendors on the outside of the circle, and a taste-testing section in the middle. We stopped there to talk and ask a beer “specialist” about Beer World, and it’s popularity, and then moved on to take more pictures. It was interesting walking around and seeing the main beer producers in Peru… of which there were only a few represented. Each place was decorated differently, depending on where they were located…. Cusco, the jungle, the mountains, etc.
From there, we walked all the way to be front of the place, to start with Kid’s World. There are all sorts of different Worlds, and this year Kid’s World is new! We were there with one agenda (besides eating yummy foods)- taking pictures and getting info about Kid’s World for an online magazine. My husband had a press pass, making it easy for him to slide in and take photos, but I had to wait outside until they gave me the thumbs up to enter. I was introduced as “editor” of the magazine, which was a little stretch 😉 but got me in, nonetheless. We walked around, learned about everything, and were out to explore more Worlds! The article I wrote up can be found here.
Sweets World was the main place I wanted to explore, and thankfully, some of the chocolatiers were very nice and talkative with us (thank you, press pass), and we spent a lot of time talking to them about cacao and how their company works. I got so much information from them, that I wrote another article, found here! And of course we couldn’t leave without buying a few chocolates… I got a coffee chocolate bar, and some chocolate covered peanuts. YUM.
The Gran Mercado, or Grand Market, was another favorite place of mine at Mistura this year. It features all sorts of products, produces, and promotions for Peruvian foods, crafts, and coffees. We spent at least an hour walking down each aisle, getting samples, taking pictures, and talking to the vendors from all over Peru. We sampled coffee, a green minty drink that helps with digestion, fruits, hot sauces, quinoa manjar (kind of like caramel), more coffee, fruit juice, honey, and probably other things I can’t remember! I bought the quinoa manjar because it’s from Huaraz, and aguaymanto (tangy jungle fruit) because it was a great price! To buy things in the Gran Mercado you have to pay in Soles, not the meal tickets.
We breezed through other worlds, before deciding where we wanted to eat lunch… a tough choice, but we decided on Amazonian food: ribs with a chocolate-y glaze sauce and plantains from La Patarashca. It was amazing and finger-licking delicious! Then, we booked it to find some dessert, and settled with Picarones from Larita for S./6.
At this point it was around 4:00pm and we were tired, full, and happy, but not finished yet! Mistura has a Gran Auditorio (Grand Auditorium) where there are presentations, talks from famous chefs, and other culinary events. My husband wanted to go in and snap some photos, so I waited outside awkwardly, until he came and said I was able to go in too! We left our ID’s at the front, were given Qaray press passes, notebooks, schedules, and walked right in to the auditorium where we sat at the back. We walked in during the middle of a presentation from Ben Reade of Nordic Food Lab. It was in English (!) and very interesting to hear about his life, travels, and research. After him, we saw Gastón Acurio, only the most famous Peruvian chef. Then we saw a presentation by Diego Muñoz and some culinary students. It was so cool being able to sit in on these sessions and hear from esteemed people in the food world!
As we were walking out of the auditorium & turning in our passes, we were told to head to the International Press building for cocktail hour. We thought, “what the heck?” and walked to there just to check it out. We were greeted with drinks upon walking in (Pisco, maracuya juice, Inca Kola, Chicha Morada…well-known Peruvian drinks) and told to take a seat. We sat down at a table with a Chilean chef who owns Restaurante Piura– so cool! As we sat there taking it all in, waiters came around with trays of amazing Peruvian foods, featuring lots of quinoa, seafood, and meats. Everything I tried was so delicious, but especially the quino-covered shrimp with sweet, tangy passionfruit sauce! Moments later, three famous foodies came and greeted the international press… I don’t know their names, but it’s still cool!
We took advantage of the free stuff with the press pass, and got fresh, cold, passionfruit (maracuya) juices! It was quite cold outside, so we sucked them down quickly after taking pictures at this cool chalk wall at Mistura! I wanted to sign it, but there was no chalk
After stuffing ourselves with appetizers, we were tired and ready to start the long trip back home. However, as we got closer to the exits near Beer World, the sound of music magically drew us into the line outside to enter the concert. The headliner show (starting at 8:30pm) was 1980’s Peruvian rock band, Rio. It was fun to hear some of their songs, even though I had never heard them before and couldn’t understand half the lyrics!
By 9:00 we were exhausted, so out the Mistura gates we went, and up the hill we walked to the bus stop. It was a long day, but a really awesome one in my book. I went to Mistura last year with a friend, but this year was so much better. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Mistura with my husband, and had a great time taking advantage of his press pass. And being there as a journalist was super fun because I really felt I learned more from talking to the vendors and workers, instead of just doing my own thing and not gaining any cultural experience or knowledge.
I was very impressed with the organization of Mistura, and the cleanliness of everything from tables to the porta-potties. Although Mistura isn’t extremely popular with everyone, I had a good time, and would recommend it to other expats or tourists in Peru. It’s a great way to learn about Peruvian cuisine and culture, and practice your Spanish with the vendors!
Here are three interesting Mistura recaps I’ve found: