I have to admit something embarrassing. The first time I journeyed to Latin America (to Peru specifically), I expected Peruvian cuisine to be more or less just like Mexican food. It didn’t occur to me that there are probably massive cultural, agricultural and cuisine differences, given that Lima and Mexico City are 2,600 miles apart. So I was completely unprepared for the extremely novel, exciting, and bizarre foods that awaited me. In order to save you that embarassment, I have listed a small sample of (mostly) uniquely Peruvian food you should expect to encounter while trekking through the Andes or sitting on a beach.
1. Ceviche: Probably my favorite of all Peruvian dishes. Raw fish, marinated in fresh lime juice and spices.
2. Cuy: A much more appetizing name than fried guinea pig. They do the entire thing, stuffed, leaving the head and little claws. A true Andean classic and surprisingly tasty.
3. Lomo Saltado: Beef tenderloin sauteed with onions, tomatoes, peppers and spices. Served with the usual french fries and rice. Found everywhere.
4. Chifa: This is Chinese food in Peru and you’ll find tons of Chifa restaurants in every city. It’s more than fried rice, because the dishes have Peruvian flair, definitely worth trying.
5. Pachamanca: Only found in Andean communities, this meal’s preparation is quite unique. A mixture of meat, potatoes, corn, tamales and spices are baked together over a fire and is covered by large stones. The origins of this meal come from pre-Hispanic times, so it’s a true classic.
Plus, I recommend you wash down these dishes with a classic Peruvian beverage.
1. Cusqueña: Each city has it’s own brewery and it’s definitely a matter of community pride. For instance, if someone asks if you prefer “Cusqueña or Arequipeña”, you should always answer that you prefer the beer of the city you’re in. Personally though, I really did like Cusqueña best.
2. Pisco Sour: This classic drink is made with Peruvian brandy (Pisco), raw egg, sugar and key lime juice. Sounds gross, but it’s actually ridiculously tasty. Don’t leave Peru without having one (or 8).
3. Chica: You’ll be lucky to find authentic Chica unless you’re staying with a family living in the countryside. This is a fermeted mixture liquor, sort of like beer or hard apple cider, with a pretty low alcohol content. Tradtionally, it’s fermented by someone moistening the maize in their mouth and adding it to the mixture. Not recommended for squimish travelers, but a must for those seeking an something out of the ordinary.
* Photos courtesy of Wikipedia