Pica No Pica

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Three chili sauces. Only one is spicy.

“Pica no pica” is a phrase one hears here in Lima. It translates literally as “spice no spice”  but actually means “seasoned but not spicy.”

So not spicy on the scoville scale but flavorful.

I may start responding with “pica q pica!”

Asian Vegetables in Bogota

Marinated perilla leaves.
Marinated perilla leaves.

The Chinese porcelain cat with the waving paw is the give-away. In the U.S., it’s called “napa cabbage” but in Bogota, it’s called “Chinese cabbage.”  Whatever it’s called, it’s almost impossible to find in Bogota, I guess because it’s not a normal part of the diet here.

Kimchi in the making, raw napa cabbage.
Kimchi in the making, raw napa cabbage.

I went on the hunt. I’m not sure if it’s my imagination but I feel like in the months that I’ve lived in Bogota, more and more grocery stores are offering “Asian” vegetables like napa cabbage, daikon, and leafy greens other than spinach. But, in most of the stores, the Asian vegetables are droopy and expensive (whenever I buy bok choy in the market, it’s never the tiny ones served to me at Gran China but I guess they, as a restaurant, get preference). It’s better to go to Paloquemao. In particular, “Peter’s Fruits and Vegetables – Chinese Products Available” which I call “Peter’s Chinese Vegetable” just because I think it would sound better. There are quite a few stands in the same area of the market selling asparagus, giant daikon, arugula, chives, and leafy greens.The last time I went, I bought two large backpacks worth of vegetables and it cost me 24,000 pesos (about $11). There is a separate lady who sells nothing by chiles. The other “Asian vegetable” which is hard to find even in the U.S., is perilla leaf. Maki Roll on Carrera 11 sells that.

Japanese-Korean seafood pancake with long green onion-chive vegetables.
Japanese-Korean seafood pancake with long green onion-chive vegetables.

As an aside, Peter’s also sells sweet potato (yams to Americans and “Peruvian camote” here — a sweet potato with an orange color, used in Peruvian ceviche and North American food) and kale. Some of the vendors even use the English words and if they see a foreigner, they’ll call out “kale” or “sweet potato” to attract customers.

The Chile Lady of Paloquemao

Not the chile lady.
Not the chile lady.

It took six months for her to smile. But, I find that sort of fascinating. The lady in the photo is not her but I liked her style.

Boxes of dried chiles.
Boxes of dried chiles.

When I moved to Bogota, I was told about the chile lady. It took me a long time to find her because Paloquemao market, while not immense, can be confusing because so many of the stalls look exactly alike. Now I know that she’s a right turn from Peter’s Chinese vegetable stall, located in the Chinese vegetable alley.

The Chile Lady was wearing a chile shirt last weekend.
The Chile Lady was wearing a chile shirt last weekend.

There is also a “Mexican” stall but I usually get my chiles from the Chile Lady of Paloquemao.

Three Amigos ~ Mexican Food In Dhaka

Americans are obsessed with “Mexican food” of which there is a dearth of in Dhaka. But, as I have tried 100 restaurants in Dhaka, here are the three “Mexican” places (and my review rating of them):

Uno ~ El Toro, Gulshan 1 (3/13): Mexican. Must try: going on a night when they have avocados (!!!). This is the only real contender and yet…

Dos ~ Quesadilla, Road 11, Banani (3/13); The quesadilla was actually okay. Edible and not greasy. The “Mexican pizza” was a basic frozen pizza with some charred crumbled beef added plus a few loops of green pepper. The nachos were a plate of fried wonton skins covered in brown beans, cheese, and decorated with swirls of “mexican” sauce — a slightly sweet pink sauce. The garlic bread with melted cheese was so tasteless as to be useless.

Tres ~ Rush Tex Mex, Road 6, Banani (3/13): Burgers and fries. The advertised Mexican dishes were mysteriously not available… small place with two booths. Fries were okay.

As I mentioned in a FAQ, Panini has the best nachos I’ve had here.

Chips and salsa are so easy to serve in the U.S.
Chips and salsa are so easy to buy and serve in the U.S.

Like a lot of things in the expat life, if you want it, you gotta make it. So we started our own Mexican Monthly Club. Getting enough avocados is the hardest part of making Mexican food in Dhaka. Let us see how it goes. Buen provecho!