Foreign Grocery Friday: The 'Rica-Rica' Herb of the Atacama Desert
When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is to pop into a local grocery store and check out the food products and candies we'd never find anywhere else. So we're trying out this new feature, Foreign Grocery Friday, where each week we'll feature some of our (and your) favorite overseas treats. Got a recommendation? Let us know!
What looks like an inconsequential bush in the Atacama Desert is actually a medicinal plant you'll first smell, then taste, then fall in love with and imagine importing.
Rica Rica, which essentially translates to "yummy yummy," is a strongly aromatic local medicinal herb used to add Atacamenian flavor to everything from fish dishes to the traditional Pisco Sour cocktail (pictured below). The Puri Spa at the Hotel Alto Atacama even offers a Rica Rica massage, and homemade rica rica ice cream is a mainstay on their daily menu.
The shrub's tiny purple flowers bloom in October, which means we were in town just in time to enjoy both its flavor and beauty.
The taste: Intensely citrus with a a savory hit of herb, we'd most closely liken it to lemon verbena.
The price: Depends on what you're purchasing that has rica-rica as an ingredient. Dried rica-rica is available, but we recommend venturing to try it in a $7 Pisco Sour or a cheap scoop of locally made ice cream.
Where to find it: Out and about in the desert, you'll see the rica-rica plant everywhere once you know what to look for. Take some of its leaves between your fingers and rub them to bring out the oil and its aroma. We then ate and drank foods using rica-rica off the menu at the Hotel Alto Atacama.
If you'd like to share some of your foreign grocery finds, we'd love love love to see them. Send 'em on over via email here and snack on, my friends.
[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted]