When you think of moving to La Paz, you may be wondering, “What is the food like?” Won’t it be all tacos and beer? Can I actually eat healthy in Mexico?
First, let’s set the record straight: we love tacos and beer! And there are plenty of different varieties of both to enjoy here in La Paz. However, if you are looking to branch out, love to cook, or just love to eat fresh, healthy food, you have come to the right place. We have found an abundance of fresh, organic and local ingredients here in La Paz that are a pleasure to cook with and eat. Even better, you can get organic produce, locally raised chicken and pork, and fresh caught seafood at much lower cost than is typical in the US or Canada.
The farmer’s market in downtown La Paz welcomes shoppers twice a week, on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. Here you can find vendors offering fresh organic fruits, vegetables and herbs, as well as eggs, cheese, chicken, shrimp, hand-made sausages, bread, organic soaps, handmade jewelry, clothing and more.
Our typical haul from the market includes organic arugula, spinach, kale, rainbow radishes, poblano and jalapeno peppers, heirloom and cherry tomatoes, squash, asparagus, ginger, cilantro, mint, pineapple or melons, broccoli and cauliflower. Our cost? Around 200 pesos for a large reusable shopping tote filled to the brim with produce. At the current pesos to US dollars exchange rate, that comes out to around $10-$12 U.S. If we were to buy that same bag of organic produce at Whole Foods, I’m guessing we wouldn’t get out the door for under $50.
Combine your trip to the farmer’s market with a stop at Doce Cuarenta, the popular local coffee shop, for some organic fresh ground coffee and a bite to eat. You can also shop their gift shop for souvenirs including shirts, coffee mugs, cookbooks and more.
A few blocks away, Mercado Bravo is a lively market offering several stalls where you can find fresh caught seafood, from yellowtail and dorado to pierna (a snapper-like white fish), cabrilla (sea bass) and more. Fresh squeezed juices are popular throughout La Paz, and several stands at Mercado Bravo will whip you up a blend of green and tropical fruit juices. Try one that includes nopal, the leaves of the pear cactus, which has several health benefits, including anti-viral properties and stabilizes blood sugar.
The farmer’s market offers fresh chicken, but we get our poultry from a neighbor who raises organic chickens and delivers them, along with his farm fresh eggs, to our door every week. We usually simply roast the chicken or poach it for chicken stock and shred the meat for enchiladas, tacos, burritos and more. Just a few blocks away from our home in El Centenario, you can get what the locals refer to as “heavenly bacon” from a man who hand cuts and cures it himself. Around the corner, the local tortilleria serves up still-warm corn (maize) and flour (harina) tortillas. You can watch them come off the little conveyor belt as they are being made.
On the way home, we stop at the local fruteria, which also features fresh fruits and vegetables, and is run by a woman who makes the best salsa and pico de gallo we’ve found anywhere for just a few pesos, along with local wild honey.
Of course, making several stops to buy groceries may seem like an inconvenience when you are used to shopping at grocery superstores. You can do that here, too – Walmart and local grocery chains like Soriana and Chedraui are all here. However, we’ve found that visiting the markets and getting to know the local purveyors is part of the rich experience of living here in La Paz.
So there you have it, no excuses! You can still head out for your favorite tacos and a cerveza, but living in La Paz means you can also get fresh, local, organic food at a much lower cost than is typical up north. If you love to cook, La Paz is a chef’s dream. If eating out is more your style, the area is full of restaurants offering the same fresh, local ingredients. There are too many restaurants to name here, so we’ll leave that topic to a future post!