Bolivian Sunday and La Fortaleza

“I hope you like starch …”

So goes the refrain when I ponder those food trucks lining the access roads by Route 50 west of Seven Corners in what the mail carriers might call Falls Church but what is more properly known as “miscellaneous Fairfax County”.  Of course I am talking about Sundays, when the substantial Bolivian population in these here parts come out of the woodwork (ok, they probably live in apartments), and bring their culinary wares to the public.  I have to admit, this both intrigued and intimidated me coming out of the gate.  I had read reviews of the like from the usual sources for this sort of thing, and I had taken a small step in the Bolivian direction before – but the idea of the menus being entirely in Spanish and a level of flying blind IS in fact a little scary.

Yet there we were several weeks ago, parked at La Fortaleza, which is a converted ice cream truck which is encamped on 50-West near a Radio Shack.  Yes, the directions are THAT precise.  So leaving the car, I went out to the truck where a barrel shaped man was standing there.  I used the entire range of Spanish I knew to ask how he was doing.  While going through this incredibly tortured dance, I got offered a sample of the Chicharron, pork which was succulent, flavorful and tender off the bone.  And then I uttered several barely coherent syllables which ended up with me having two pastries in my hand and a large container of soup.  The pastries of course were Saltenas – lovely stuffed with meat, vegetable, eggs, olives.  To describe it would be inadequate, although referring to it as a lovechild of a samosa and an empanada might get you in the ballpark.  My own choice that day was the Sopa de Mani, their peanut soup.  The soup – suffice to say – was a bacchanalia of starch.  Yeah the broth was lovely with some peas, but then also lots of potatoes, and french fries.  Another time – at a different truck I had a brisket soup which featured what looked to be grits to be tossed in, also excellent.  But my favorite soup of them all was the ranga, a vegetable and tripe soup which will senda few of my erstwhile readers running in horror.  But – if you get past the texture of tripe, which is not universally admired – it is really tasty.  Add the chili sauce and you get a real kick to go with it.

Other dishes are clearly pretty authentic, but less successful.  The silpancho, a milanese beef on rice, was fine but my god we got a lot of rice.  The enrollado was almost an unpleasant texture  – LG disliked it, but it might have been less an execution problem than just being a texture that would be hard to work with.  The chicharron dish was excellent, but the dish still had some unrendered fat which threw us for a loop. That said, it is a minor quibble.  Indeed, hard to get high and mighty about a cuisine that I am only learning about and enjoying while sitting on the pavement in a parking lot like a day laborer with mucho trabajo.  It is overall an excellent experience – and La Fortaleza is particularly excellent, though we have vowed to try to see a few more of the vendors.  On Sunday there are seriously nearly 10 or so trucks lining that stretch – selection is not a problem.

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