Monday, December 7, 2009

Peru, Day 9

This is going to be a very boring update. Nothing really happened today other than more travel delays. My flight from Trujillo to Lima, which was originally scheduled to fly at 8:30 a.m., was pushed back to 3 p.m. And then, once I checked in, and was told that my flight was on time, I proceeded to wait another three hours to board. So, in all, I spent from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m. at airports and in transit between airports and hotels. Another partial day lost thanks to StarPeru. If I ever come back to Peru, and I hope I will, I know never to schedule another flight on their airline. LAN, though more expensive, is far more reliable and better run.

Rant over. Still, there’s not much to report here because I simply didn’t have time to do anything special. I just ate. And only two meals. Ay caramba.

I was actually a little bummed to be leaving Trujillo. I was a little worried that I’d made a mistake traveling here rather than to Iquitos, which is said to be a beautiful and fascinating city on the Amazon River, but in the end I was happy to have come into contact with such a charming, colorful little city that was full of well-preserved colonial architecture and was for the most part walkable. It was also really nice to be able to spend one night in Huanchaco, which is only a 15-minute drive away but utterly different from Trujillo. My feeling is that if Peru were safer it would be crawling with foreigners.

In any case, in the morning I didn’t have any place special to go in Trujillo – one of the museums I wanted to go to was closed on Sunday, which is also true of almost every business here, as all the giant colonial doors were shuttered throughout the city – so I wandered around and found myself at the Plaza de Armas, where something slightly ominous seemed to be happening. I quickly noticed was that the streets around the plaza were cordoned off, lots of police in riot gear were standing on the corners of the plaza, and gathered in groups around the square were soldiers in camouflage.

I hung around for a bit and watched people filter in and out of the big church in the plaza, seemingly oblivious to this gathering of soldiers and riot police, then headed back to my hotel for breakfast. After I’d ordered I was told that this happens every Sunday: it’s a municipal event, apparently. I have no idea what it was about or if what she told me was correct. Anyway, there was nothing for me to do at that point but eat breakfast and prepare for my trip to the airport.

When my breakfast arrived I nearly hit the floor. Another guest started laughing and said, “Es muy grande!” Hey, no kidding, muchacha. Ten of the pancake breakfasts I ordered could have fed the entire army that I’d seen gathered in the plaza.

The pancake itself was no smaller than a football – it was certainly heavier – and it came with two fried eggs covered with a slab of ham, two large rolls with jam (because everyone knows that bread goes great with pancakes), orange juice, and tea. All I can say is that I did my best. I couldn’t touch the rolls, but I ate the entire pancake, which was great, and most of the eggs and ham, which I didn’t want to let go to waste. I wish Adam Richman were a genie one could summon whenever necessary; I’d have requested that he take half my meal, including all the bread.

After that I dragged my overfed stomach around Trujillo for a couple more hours, mostly taking photos of churches and the city’s beautiful doors and windows, but also stopping in a nice cafe for a quick coffee, then headed to the airport.

I have to retract a statement I made earlier about Lima. I said something to the effect that it was grimy, treeless, and basically unattractive. I was basing this off of an airport ride to Central Lima, which I now know is a relatively poor and dangerous part of the city. Since I was staying in Miraflores this time I took a different route from the airport, and even at night this part of Lima struck me as quite attractive. (More on this in my next post.)

By the time I arrived at my hotel it was already 8 p.m. So I asked the receptionist for a restaurant recommendation and then promptly went in the other direction. I have no idea why I did that. But I came across a fairly active area and found a restaurant with the word CHIFAS spelled out above its entrance. I wanted to give this another try, so I went inside. A nice older waiter – all the wait staff was Peruvian, which surprised me a little – sat me down at a table and told me which items from the menu were the restaurant’s specialties. He pointed to numerous things and rattled off various explanations in Spanish, which I didn’t understand. I pointed at two things he’d pointed at and said I’d try those. Then I ordered beer. And then he left.

The first thing I ordered was soup.

It was basically egg drop soup with snap beans, shrimp, chicken, and button mushrooms.

I have no idea what made this soup Chifas. The Chinese part of the dish I understood, but the Peruvian part of the dish was lost on me. It was good, but nothing special.

Then my entrée arrived: I thought I’d ordered chicken with mixed vegetables, but a mix of chicken, shrimp, duck, pork, quail eggs, vegetables, and cashews arrived.

It was a huge amount of food, and again I wasn’t clear on what was Peruvian and what was Chinese about it. To me, all the ingredients were Chinese, and before I took a bite I half-guessed that the taste might be somehow Peruvian. It seemed that I was right. The entire meal had a uniform, salty taste, which by the time I was halfway through the dish had gotten a little tiresome. When the waiter came by I asked him if Chifas basically meant using Chinese ingredients but cooking them in a Peruvian way – with certain oil often used in Peruvian cooking, for example – and he said yes. The idea is to cook Chinese food but give it a flavor that is recognizably Peruvian. Good enough, I thought. But in fact it wasn’t very good. Not bad, but certainly nothing I’d think would result in so many Chifas restaurants around the country. Maybe I just went to the wrong place.

By the time I got home it was already 10 p.m. Since I wanted to hit the central market early the next morning, I turned in and slept right away.

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1 comment:

  1. That breakfast is certainly amazing (and I would've polished off the pancake, too!) It's good that you had another shot at Chifas but a shame that the distinction b/w Chinese and Peruvian is rather non-exiistenc!