For you animal lovers out there (especially of the cute and furry kinds), this post will seem incessantly cruel. First I tease you with a picture of the silly looking and oh so adorable llamas…
…and then I proceed to describe my dinner.
Llamas are native to Northwestern Argentina, and have been important to the Andean cultures since pre-hispanic times. Llamas were and still are used as pack animals, their fur spun into wool, and their meat a local speciality. Though a lot of restaurants in Tilcara and the other hamlets in Quebrada de Humahuaca offer llama, the meat is usually cooked simply, in the form of a simple steak or brochette. At Yacon, a Tilcara restaurant (more modern and fancier than its surroundings) highly recommended by our local hotelier, the kitchen gives its own spin on Llama. Hankering for some sauteed vegetables, I could not resist ordering llama chopsuey, that faux chinois dish prevalent in many overseas Chinese restaurants usually served with wilted vegetables in a disgusting brown sauce. Fortunately for me, the version at Yacon was many notches above the garden variety. The ingredients were flash fried in a soy based sauce, a good method of treating the ultra-lean and slightly gamey llama meat, since it doesn’t have a lot of fat to withstand longer cooking methods. The fresh julienne of vegetables were also a treat after days of only eating lettuce and tomatoes (note: Argentinians are not big vegetable eaters). It would have been perfect if the kitchen had served it with a bowl of white rice.
The rest of our food was excellent too. As mentioned in the previous post, we enjoyed the unique quinoa empanada with a much-lighte- than-usual crust, and meltingly soft lamb chunks in a stew packed with vegetables and the very tasty and tiny andean potatoes. Of course, if you just fancy llama, there are at least another 2 or 3 items on the menu, all sounding quite interesting. And who knows, with more time and experimentation, the kitchen might come out with llama pizza, empanada, ravioli and even curry next time!
Address: Rivadavia 222, Tilcara, Jujuy, Argentina
p.s: We also bought a salami of llama at Tilcara’s gourmet grocer Mama Pacha (590 Belgrano, Tilcara), specializing in foods and wines of the region. We will follow up with an update once we’ve tried it.