Whenever Jaime and I are traveling we each have things we research before we get there. Jaime reads up on the scenery and landscape so he can plot out picture opportunities and I always read up on the local eats, scoping out the good restaurants and street food. I was so happy to be hitting Peru first on our RTW trip because I had read so many articles about the deliciousness of Peruvian cuisine. Overall, I would agree – the food of Peru is delicious and does not disappoint. Here are some of the memorable food and drinks we enjoyed in Peru:
Ceviche is a traditional dish of Peru. It is basically raw fish and/or seafood cooked in an acid, typically lime or lemon juice. We were lucky enough to get in at LaMar, one of the best ceviche restaurants in Lima. It is owned by Gaston Acurio, who is something of a celebrity chef there. Seriously one of the best things that I have ever eaten was the ceviche there. It was a mixture of fish, octopus, squid and shrimp. The freshness was out of this world.
Cuy (Guinea pig)
Sorry to everyone who has had a guinea pig as a pet, but slow roasted guinea pig is delicious. It’s a special occasion dish in Peru – like something you would eat on your birthday. Jaime and I splurged on one the night before heading to Macchu Picchu. It took an hour to prepare because they slow roast it over an open flame. We thought it tasted like a cross between chicken and quail. There is not a whole lot of meat on a guinea pig so it comes with a ton of traditional Peruvian sides, like stuffed pepper, fried potatoes and tamales. They sometimes, as you can see in the first photo of this post, also go over-the-top with the presentation.
Anticuchos de corazón
This may have been Jaime’s favorite meal in Peru and it cost about 2 dollars from a street cart in Lima. These are beef hearts that are grilled on a skewer over a tiny charcoal grill. They usually come with some boiled potatoes and various yummy sauces. The ones from this particular cart also came with grilled tripe (cow stomach lining). The tripe was good but a little too chewy for my taste. These are all over Peru but the best we had are the ones from that cart in Lima’s Chinatown. The grill master was none too happy with Nicole taking a picture of him working his magic.
This is a traditional pork stew and in Arequipa they only eat it on Sundays. I had read good things about the adobo in Arequipa so we had to try it. Jaime and I get a gag reflex now just thinking of it. Not sure if adobo is nasty or if we just had nasty adobo, but that stuff was gross. The pork was so tough and chewy and the broth tasted so bad that we didn’t even sop up the broth with the bread like you are supposed to do. Adobo was so gross it doesn’t get a picture.
Arequipa is known for its picanterias, traditional eateries that specialize in spicy food and the fermented corn drink chicha. We loved the food there but it wasn’t very spicy, as we suspect they toned it down for us gringos. One of the best things we ate was a rocotto relleno, a hot pepper that is stuffed with meat and cheese. Another yummy picanteria dish was a bean and cheese salad called saltero de queso. It reminds me of hoppin’ john, but with some spice and cubes of salty andean cheese thrown in. And we can’t forget the chicharron, these big chunks of fried pork. I can totally imagine hung over Peruvians chowing down on a big plate of chicharron the next day after a big night out – kind of like going to a Waffle House in the States.
In South America farmers don’t just raise alpaca for their wool, they also raise them as livestock. After having alpaca steak for the first time at this little Swiss/Andean fusion place in Arequipa it is my new favorite protein. It is so yummy – tastes like a cross between beef and venison. I had it grilled like a steak, skewered on kabobs and even stir-fried. After tasting the deliciousness of alpaca, I couldn’t understand why it hasn’t taken off in the U.S., especially with the Paleo crowd. After Googling around a bit I learned that the USDA doesn’t consider alpaca an amenable species subject to safety testing by its inspectors so it’s down to local state regulations. I did, however, find a couple of farms raising them across the U.S that offer their steaks online and highly recommend trying it.
Chifa is Chinese food made using common Peruvian ingredients. For example, a lot of the Chifa stir fries use potatoes. I really got into Chifa, especially in Lima where there is a Chifa on every corner. We had some great stir fries and wanton soup. One dish we particularly liked was lomo saltado which is stir fried beef with potatoes (usually french fries), onions, and tomatoes. I had it several times at Chifa places but in Peru you can get this dish at pretty much any restaurant. We forgot to get a photo of Chifa but it basically looks like any other Chinese stir fry.
No trip to Peru is complete without trying a Pisco sour. It’s Peru’s national alcoholic drink of choice and it is a strange concoction of pisco brandy, lime juice, simple syrup and egg whites. They taste a bit sweet but yikes they pack a punch as Jaime, Nicole and I discovered one night in Lima!
This is a fermented corn drink. Not my thing – tastes like a weird corn flavored session beer. There are lots of chicha houses in the mountain areas near Cusco. They advertise their wares by hanging a red flag outside their house.
You drink a tea made from coca leaves to help with the altitude in Peru. I drank a ton of it in Puno, which is over 11,000 feet. It may have been placebo, but I really felt like it helped. Plus, I loved the taste of it.
Peruvian Beer Wars
Every country has their few cheap national lagers and in Peru it is Cusquena, Arequipena, and Pilsen. For us the winner was Pilsen out of Lima, with Cusquena a close second. Arequipena was pretty bad so we never drank that one.