Papaya, zapote, rocoto, ají amarillo, frijoles, mote de trigo, zapallo, arepas, quinoa, salsa chimichurri…….Just the words are enough to start me drooling. South American food is some of the most varied and complex in the world and mass immigration means it is much easier to find here than it was a decade ago. According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística, around 44 percent of the foreign population in Barcelona is from South America, and businesses catering to their needs have cropped up accordingly.
The Zoco Latino was the first store in Barcelona to cater to the growing waves of immigrants. The vast majority of its customers are South American rather than locals although the composition has changed over the years: when the store started out, it catered mostly to Peruvians and Dominicans, but the later waves of Ecuadorians and Columbians, followed by Argentinians, have had a big influence on the stock—the towering stacks of different brands of yerba mate being a case in point.
The Zoco Latino is now one of the largest and best stocked in the city, and as some of the more mainstream products are now readily available from the supermarkets, the prices have actually dropped a little over the years. However, if you are looking for a more unusual product, such as an obsucure type of ají or Ambhar tequila then this is the place to come. The owner does not stock any of the edible insects such as the hormiga culona (eaten in Columbia as a snack) due to customs regulations but the store is particularly strong on fresh produce like paraguayos, yuca, maracuyá, camote, choclo and zapallo, with various plantains and limes and avocadoes at good prices. Fresh produce aside, it’s all organised more or less by country, so Brazilians can head straight for the endless bottles of cachaça or rice flour to make acaçá—a steamed rice flour pudding—or if you want to lay on a Mexican feast, you don’t have to go far to find chipotles (smoke-dried jalapeño chilis), huitlacoche or mole poblano.
You could spend a lifetime exploring how to use all the products in this shops, or a long time on Google, at any rate. Now to find out what to do with epazote…
Zoco Latino, Lepant 362 (Eixample) tel. 93 450 0385. Mon-Fri 9.30am-2pm, 4.30-8.30pm, Sat 10am-2pm, 5-9pm.