Can’t find dried hot peppers? Looking for pomegranates? Need some purple corn? After a basket to hold it all?
You can find all these and more at the indoor market at Iñaquitos. Located in a full city block between Avenida 10 de Agosto and Rio Amazonas, the market is not hard to find though the traffic can make it difficult to get to. The four streets that run directly around the market (all of them one way streets) are Iñaquito, Juan José Villalengua, Jorge Drom, and Alfonso Pereira, each with an entrance into the large parking lot. Once you find a place to park your car, you can ask to have it washed while you shop ($5). You can also have your windshield wipers replaced and a dust barrier installed on your doors. I don’t know the costs for those as I haven’t taken advantage of these particular deals but the guy who washes cars takes particular note of what your vehicle just might need. Be prepared to say no.
Outside the building are several small stores – most are small viveres that sell imported goods, dried goods, nuts and freshly fried potato and sweet potato chips, wine and hard liquor. A few others specialize in kitchen goods, from plastic containers to the largest cooking pot you have ever seen in your life. Throw in a couple of small restaurants and flower vendors and you get the idea.
Inside is a whole different place. Vendors are everywhere. One corner is all seafood. A few aisles down, it’s beef and pork. In the center chicken and dairy. Along another full wall, the fruit vendors sell both local and imported fruits, some as familiar as gala apples and green grapes wrapped in plastic from the USA and others strange to our gringo eyes, like guanabana which are huge green fruits with reptile like skins that look like giant mishappen avocados. And then there are the vegetables. Name it and you can probably find it. We have bought carrots the size of small volkswagons (ok, I exaggerate, but not by much), bags of onions in red and white, cabbages and cauliflower, broccoli and ears of corn, long beans and asian cucumbers. I have found peppers in every color, from sweet to hotter than hell. One variety was a surprise as it was the size and shape of a large red bell pepper with a smoother skin and a cherry red tone, a pepper you would expect to be incredibly sweet. Instead, this one was incredibly spicy. If in doubt, just ask! The only vegetable I have not found here is kale.
A couple of rows are dedicated to potatoes, an extremely important part of the local diet. The large ones are called papas cholas and are an essential ingredient in Locro de Papas (recipe to come one day soon!). You can buy any and all potatoes covered in dirt, washed free of dirt, peeled of skin, and even cut into small pieces. It’s your choice!
Then tucked around the corner from all of this is the cafeteria/restaurant scene. There are stands with whole roasted pigs waiting to be sliced up and served with hominy, avocado, and sweet plantain. Others will make you juice from all of the delicious fruits for sale in the other room. There are soups and ceviches alongside plantain chips and toasted corn. Everything is of the Sierra and speaks of Quiteño traditions. And the tables are full of locals eating at just about any time of the day.
If you decide to shop here yourself, I recommend mornings rather than afternoons. A few of the meat and fish vendors do not have complete refrigeration and the smells late in the day can be overwhelming to a delicate nose.