tastily touring: a visit to bolivia with a coconut pudding recipe
We last visited Bhutan, a landlocked country in Asia. Today we visit another landlocked country, but this time we find ourselves in central South America. The country of Bolivia, Plurinational State of Boliva, is bordered by Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay and Argentina to the south, Chile to the southwest and Peru to the west.
Bolivia is named after Simon Bolivar, the freedom fighter who helped Bolivia gain independence from Spanish rule in 1825. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish and European colonization the Andean region of Bolivia was a part of the Inca Empire. But, when the Spanish colonized the region it was referred to as Upper Peru and was only renamed Bolivia after 16 years of fighting (from 1809-1825) when independence was won.
While Bolivia is a Democratic Republic, its history is full of strife. Over 200 coups, counter-coups and economic instability define the rocky history of Bolivia’s beautiful landscape which includes the majestic Andes Mountains in the West to the Eastern Lowlands that are within the Amazon Basin. It is unfortunate, though, that because of Bolivia’s political instability it has lost more than half it land since 1825. The economic and political environment of Bolivia has been anything but idea. Few hold the power and the indigenous population lives in poverty.
The Bolivian people are quite varied and include Amerindians, Mestizos, Europeans and Africans. The official language is Spanish while over 30 other indigenous languages are spoken, indicating the large native population. The diversity of its people has attributed to a rich culture and has greatly influenced the arts and cuisine of Bolivia.
A prominent visual reminder of the indigenous Andean population is the skirt called pollera and the bowler hat worn by the women. The Spanish forced the native women to wear a peasant skirt that has now become a symbol of pride for the women to wear. The bowler hat was brought to Bolivia by the British and depending on the tilt of the hat one can determine a woman’s marital status.
Bolivian cuisine combines Spanish cuisine with the traditional, native foods and local ingredients. When other Europeans immigrated to Bolivia they brought with them the influences of their cuisine (German, Italian, Basque and Polish). The staple foods of the Bolivian diet are corn, potatoes, beans, rice, beef, pork and chicken.
Trivial fact: Many Americans are familiar with the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid which starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford (1969). The movie was based on the life of two very real western outlaws who met their end in Tupiza, Bolivia while attempting one more heist before supposedly settling down to become cattle ranchers.
Coconut Pudding (Recipe from BoliviaBella.com)
We love this recipe found at Bolivia Bella. The insight regarding the ingredients is quite helpful to creating an authentic Bolivian budin de coco.
1 liter of milk
1 grated coconut (about 1 lb.)
1 pound of sugar
1/2 cup of cornstarch
In Bolivia you either have whole milk or skim milk and the whole milk is really creamy and the skim is not so skim (not as watery as skim milk in the US – skim milk in Bolivia is like whole milk in the US). Try to use whole milk for full flavor.
Although grated fresh coconut is always preferable, if you must use dried shredded coconut. Try your local health food store to find wide-cut shredded coconut.
In the US most sugar is made from beets but in Bolivia it’s usually made from sugar CANE. There is a difference in flavor, although slight.
1. In a pot boil 3/4 of the milk and the coconut along with the cloves and cinnamon. Once this is boiling, add the sugar and cook on low heat for 10 more minutes. Strain.
2. Cook the liquid that remains after straining in a pot, adding the remaining 1/4 of the milk and the cornstarch (previously diluted in a tiny bit of water so it won’t clump).
3. Continue to cook and stir constantly until the mixture thickens.
4. Remove from heat, cool completely, serve in a glass or bowl topped with whipped cream and powdered cinnamon.
Featured Photographer: S. Bell
Model: Canon EOS 40D