After our Traditional Peruvian lunch at Restaurant Don Juan, it was now time to walk over to Mercado Central. Following Google Maps directions, we walked the half a mile among Lima’s massive crowd of people to get to Mercado Central. Once we arrived at the entrance of the market, the condition of the exterior of the building did not exude much confidence in the sanitation of the food items venders were selling inside.
Once we stepped inside of the building, the smell hit me like a two ton truck traveling at 90MPH. I am sure, the items being sold here would probably not affect most Peruvians, but it definitely would but my parents and I in the ER hooked up to an IV drip. The lower level seemed to be where all of the fresh meat and seafoods were sold. Everything seemed to be either hung up or displayed on the vendor’s counter without any ice or other type of refrigeration. I want to make one thing clear. This is in no way a dig on Peru. I have been to other places around the world where the food sold in that countries traditional markets would probably make my parents and I sick. Having said that, when the condition of what I am seeing in Mercado Central is compared to sanitation and hygiene standards of the US, Mercado Central would have been shut down ages ago if it was say located in California.
Rows and rows of vendors selling raw meat, poultry and seafood were located on the first floor of Mercado Central where most of the oder that hit me earlier seemed to be originating from. On the first floor, we stayed on the main wide corridor and decided to avoid the narrow aisles between the vendor stalls. Call me a germaphobe but I just did not want any of the raw meat drippings getting on me by walking through the narrow aisle between the vendors. Everywhere I looked, I saw cross contamination so except for the air I was breathing, I did not touch anything on the lower level.
Eventually we wandered to the stairs that lead up to the upper levels where fruits, vegetables and a section full of non food vendors. The smell was much better up in the upper level but the tight aisle between the vendors was the same as on the lower level. We had to twist and turn our body as we walked down the aisles to avoid bumping into other shoppers and the items for sale that were protruding out beyond the limits of the vendor’s stalls.
At one of the aisles, I saw a fruit vendor selling lucuma fruit, which I have only eaten as ice cream back home. After asking the vendor lady how much, I bought two lucuma fruit to try later back at our hotel. Since I did not know which lucuma was ripe, I asked the vendor to pick two out for me which she thought was ripe and good. Lucuma is native to Peru, and until today I have never seen a whole fresh lucuma fruit before.
With two lucumas in hand, we decided to say goodbye to Mercado Central and continue on our walking tour of Lima Peru. My parents and I found our way back to the stairs and headed downstairs for one final walk through the fresh meat and seafood section of Mercado Central to reach the same entrance that we used to enter earlier.