Yuca, a large root vegetable otherwise known as cassava, has played a major role in South American cuisine for centuries. If you have a sit-down meal in Bolivia, chances are your main dish will come accompanied by generous chunks of fried or boiled yuca. But if you’re on the go, chipilo de yuca, or yucca chips, are what you’re after. You can buy pocket-sized bags of chipilo at most confectionery stands, and they usually come with a little sprinkling of salt.
A little like empanadas, salteñas are small, baked pastries that are usually filled with minced meat, cheese, potatoes and olives. They’re cheap, filling and bite-size, so they are a great snack on the move. A word of warning, though: salteñas are always overloaded with runny meat filling. While this is great in terms of value, it’s almost impossible to eat one without spilling some of that delicious tomatoey sauce on your lap. Make sure you have some tissues at the ready, or, alternatively, save your snack for a pit stop.
Tucumanas are very similar to salteñas, only they’re deep-fried rather than baked. They may be a little unhealthier, but on the plus side, they’re a lot less messy (the deep-frying process seems to make the sauce a little less runny, and the meat a little less rogue). Like salteñas, you’ll find these morsels of heaven at most corner stores.
Humintas are Bolivia’s answer to tamales. Like in Mexico, they’re small packages of a soft but dense mixture of flour dough and corn that has been either boiled or baked in corn husks. What makes them different to Mexican tamales, though, is that they don’t have meat or dairy, making them the perfect (and rare) healthy on-the-go snack for vegetarians and vegans.
You won’t need to be in Bolivia for long to notice the enormous bags of giant popcorn everywhere. These are pasankallas: perfectly popped, larger-than-life corn, smothered in a seriously sugary coating. They’re not as crunchy as regular popcorn, but are an addictive snack all the same.
No one can argue with the fact that sandwiches make the best portable meal. The chola is probably Bolivia’s favorite sandwich, and with good reason. Sold at any decent sangucheria (sandwich shop), the chola sandwich features ridiculously tender strips of roasted pork, crunchy pork crackling, pickled vegetables and a fiery chili relish. Like salteñas, this is best eaten with plenty of napkins at the ready.
Best known in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz region, zonzo is a delicious snack of grilled yuca and cheese. Traditionally, the yuca is boiled, mashed with some butter and white cheese and then molded around a stick to be grilled over an open flame. A bit like eating corn on the cob, it’s super-easy to take on the road with you, and can be found at most corner stores or street stalls.
If you’re the kind of person that goes straight for the sweet aisle, this one’s for you. Similar to coconut macaroons, cocadas are soft, chewy morsels of heaven made from eggs, brown sugar and condensed coconut milk. Once browned in a clay oven, they’re then smothered in coconut flakes and, sometimes, a generous handful of chopped almonds. They’re bite-size, but seriously addictive.