The Amazon Basin Feature
- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
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Crocodile Nuggets, Anyone?
Amazonian cuisine, with its jungle game meats and off-color local dishes, is truly far-out. Chicharron de lagarto (caiman nuggets) venado a la Loretana (Loreto-style venison), and sopa de motelo (turtle soup served in the shell) are on many a menu. Unfortunately, hunting to supply Iquitos' restaurants and households poses a serious threat to the region's wildlife. The more venison that is eaten in Iquitos, the less likely it becomes that you'll encounter a deer in the woods, so please don't order it.
Luckily, there are plenty of local dishes that aren't a threat to wildlife. The best bets are the tasty fish caught in the region's rivers, or cochas (oxbow lakes). Doncella, a tender white fish, and the comparable, though slightly fatty dorado are the most popular fish. Paiche, a giant lake fish, is another favorite, though it is slightly tough—a cross between swordfish and pork—and it is not always available. Try one of these fish in patarashca (cooked in bijao leaves), timbuche (a tasty fish soup), or a la Loretana: a seasoned filet served with fried plantains, cassava, and chonta salad.
Other local favorites are tacacho, a grilled ball of plantain and pork bits, and juanes (chicken and rice wrapped in a banana leaf). Brazil nuts, locally called castañas, make a tasty snack, and by purchasing them you'll be supporting a sustainable use of the rain forest. For a thirst quencher, try fresco de camu camu made from a sweet jungle fruit, or chapo, a banana-milk-and-sugar drink. Masato is an indigenous beverage prepared by mashing cassava in water and then fermenting it, though in the Indian villages, they chew the cassava and spit it into bowls. You're safer ordering a caiparinha, a refreshing Brazilian cocktail made with lime juice and the rum-like cachaça.
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