Bolivians aren’t big breakfast eaters. Most will eat a piece of bread with coffee, and many don’t eat anything at all. However, around 10 am everyone pauses for a delicious mid-morning snack. Salteñas are exclusive to Bolivia. Each of the 9 “states” of Bolivia claims to have the best version of salteñas; we think Cochabamba wins for its perfection of the spicy salteñas at “Los Castores.” I have very fond memories of serving them with coffee to the employees at my grandpa’s company, walking very slowly from desk to desk so I wouldn’t spill the hot coffee. Each person used to give me 10 centavos (about 1 penny), which I thought was so much money.
Salteñarias are small bakeries scattered around the city (on nearly every street corner) that are open from about 8am-12pm only to serve salteñas by the dozens, along with fresh fruit juices or an ice cold Fanta. They’re usually sold out by 11am, though (we found this out the hard way!). Salteñas look like football-shaped empanadas, but they are much different. Inside is a stew composed of chicken or beef, potatoes, onions, peas, olives, eggs, olives, raisins, and spices. They are savory, spicy, and sweet all at the same time. The trick is to eat the salteña without spilling juice everywhere and therefore looking like a total gringo. We’ve learned to nibble at the corner and then use a spoon to eat the stew. After a salteña, you’re set to fend off hunger until a late lunch.