Amazonian markets tend to be either great or terrible. Some rely heavily on local produce and gather fruits and vegetables from the surrounding rivers, while others seem to be just drop off points for processed and packaged food. Pucallpa’s Mercado Numero 2, just a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas, is great. There are a wide variety of strange foods to be found here. Fruit is the most abundant item you will see and it comes in many forms that you won’t see in the Andes or Peruvian coast. There’s granadilla, camu camu, various types of bananas, passion fruit, mamei, poma rosa, cocona (awesome in ají or ceviche), and aguaje.
There’s not only fruits of odd flavors, shapes, and colors, however, but food stalls selling typical dishes, the full array of river fish, and items for shamanic and natural healing. The witch doctor tables are rather interesting, though much of what is there involves the dried carcasses of caimans, frogs, and lizards – and snake skins including of the Anaconda – that would be illegal if brought to the United States. Jars of ayahuasca and other curative mixtures derived from jungle plants can be seen, though it is probably better to get these directly from a shaman.
Bush meat is here too (hidden among the beef, pork, and chicken). You’ll find majás (a large jungle rodent), zaino (collared peccary), venado (deer), and caiman. Occasionally you can find monkey or sloth, but those are becoming increasingly rare in Amazonian cities of Pucallpa’s size.
Other culinary oddities include: dried Paiche, a spicy local Chorizo, ají Cumarí, and jungle tobacco.
Mercado Numero 2
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.