La Ruta de Las Picadas: La Vega Central and Ceviche Mixto

Una picada (most comonly pronounced as picá) is a Chilean word referring to an eatery that has both good prices and quality. It can also refer to any place that you like and want to share with someone. The whole idea of sharing with someone is the picada´s main source of marketing. At times, a picada can become so popular that it loses it´s typical picada touch and becomes, I dare say it, a regular RESTAURANT! Yes, There is a difference. A picada is not typically your favorite Sunday brunch restaurant. It usually exudes the feeling of walking into someone´s home to get a bite to eat; it´s cozy, original and it might be kind of shady. Oftentimes, they may not even have places to sit, such as the street vendor picadas.
Even Bill Clinton had a favorite ¨picᨠin Chile.
There is one picada in particular that I will never forget, and perhaps the epitome what a picada is. First, you definitely had to know someone to get to into this place. Second, the food was really cheap, made in front of us and unique. Unfortunately, I have no idea if the place had an official name or how to give you directions on how to get there or if it still illegally exists. 
One Sunday afternoon, some friends walked Francisco and I into a maze, also known as La Vega Central, in Santiago. It’s a huge farmers market that had been around for over 100 years. It can be overwhelming during your first visit as it has over 800 stands [1].
After a couple twists and turns from the entrance, I lost all perception of direction, but we made it to a small dried goods stand owned by Peruvians. Our friends talked to the guy, and we walked through to the back of the stand into a dimly lit, narrow room with a long wooden table topped with a plastic table mat, two long benches, a cooler and a small cooking area. 
I was told that cooked food was not supposed to be sold by any of the vendors, but the Anthony Bourdain in me told me to take advantage of this foodie opportunity and try whatever that was put in front of me.  What was it exactly? Ceviche Mixto.
  • A bed of spaghetti with ceviche and potatos (or yuka) topped with some kind of yellow sauce, similar to that of Aji de Gallina [2]
  • Side of salad: lettuce, raw red onion, fried jumbo corn kernels  

Ceviche Mixto
I know it doesn’t sound like the most appetizing of combinations, but everything was really fresh, flavorful (as most Peruvian food is!) and unforgettable. I don´t want to think of the sanitary conditions in which this food was made, however it was one of the best dishes I´ve had at a picada. Not to mention, they had a cold liter of Inka Cola to wash it all down. What more can you ask for after a night of shenanigans in Santiago?

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