Wednesday, December 28, 2016

If it’s raised or grown in Peru... can find it in Moshoqueque. Moshoqueque is like a small city inside Chiclayo that is dedicated mostly to selling food. In terms of size it dwarfs Chiclayo’s famed mercado modelo. To someone not accustomed to third-world farmer markets it is blocks and blocks of absolute bedlam.

Moshoqueque awakens at about 3:30 AM when farmers begin converging on the site with trucks full of produce and livestock. And there are buyers there to greet them at that hour. Many of the buyers have kiosks on the spot to resell whatever they buy. Other shoppers are from small grocery stores in Chiclayo, or come from small villages miles away. These people are buying for their families, but also probably sell to neighbors much of what they purchase. It’s worth it to get up at that time and to travel some distance; prices in Moshoqueque for a comparable food item can be as much as half of what it would cost in a store.

Streets in the area that were once asphalt paved now look like scarred battlefields. Wondering the aisles through rows of kiosks crammed with people is at first awkward, but there is a rhythm to the traffic and once found walking is manageable.

Many of the kiosks are selling identical items, with only a slight variance in price. There are sections where a particular product is dominant, for instance fish or meat. And there is a section of several square blocks where livestock is sold. Here you can buy live chickens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, sheep, pigs, goats, calves and I don’t know what else. Only the calves were allowed to stand. The sheep, pigs and goats were lying on their sides with their legs tied. If you don’t want to kill the animal yourself, there are men nearby who will kill and clean it for you. These men are very aggressive and will be in your face the moment you stop to look at an animal.

We were in Moshoqueque this morning in search of a ham. We were not able to locate a cured ham anywhere in Chiclayo so decided that a fresh ham would have to do. We were told that many vendors in Moshequeque sold fresh hams at half the price of a Tottus or Plaza Vea supermarket, and that turned out to be true.

The ham that Antonio is holding weighs 8.8 lbs and cost $14.30, or $1.63 per lb. The Plaza Vea price was $2.97 per pound. Curiously, Antonio does not buy pigs from the farmers who deliver to Moshoqueque, but instead buys from a farmer in Morrope, because he says the meat is tender with better flavor. He doesn’t kill his pigs, instead hiring a man to do it.

Our New Year’s Eve dinner, traditionally eaten at midnight will not be the ham I’m accustomed to. It won’t have the red color or the smoky, salty taste. It will be what amounts to a pork roast, but hopefully with cloves, pineapple slices and a honey glaze it will satisfy us and the rest of the family, who don’t know what a cured ham tastes like anyway.


  1. what would you say to an American visiting Peru wondering if he/she could eat food from an open market like this without getting sick from unfamiliar microbes? I ask because my daughter in Lima must boil water from the tap before her family can drink it and I'd think fresh meat would be as likely as water to host microbes.

    1. Personally, I don’t think there’s much danger in eating food items bought at Moshoqueque or any other outdoor market, as long as the food is properly prepared before eating. It’s also a good idea to buy from established vendors. Maribel buys chicken, meat, eggs and vegetables from vendors whose kiosks have been in the same location for many years. For example, Antonio, the man holding the ham in the photo is an ex-classmate that Maribel has known for 35 years. Those people are not likely to sell tainted meat or poultry or spoiled produce. She trusts those vendors more than she does the supermarkets.