Are you looking for the opportunity to explore the gastronomic side of Peru? Aside from extreme landscapes, beautiful beaches, and Machu Picchu, Peru is also known for its delicious and varied cuisine. In fact, Peru’s capital Lima was recently named the World’s Leading Culinary Destination by the World Travel Awards. But you don’t have to go to a Michelin-starred restaurant in order to experience the best of Peruvian cuisine. In many cases, you can find a heavenly dish just at the local restaurant on the corner. And believe me, Peruvian food is certainly more than just quinoa and guinea pig! Read on to learn about eight different Peruvian foods and where to find them.
In Peru, especially for lunch, meals are usually divided into two courses: la entrada and el segundo. This meal is called a menu, and it is usually a good budget option, in that you get a huge amount of food for not very much money. Usually, menus can be found in any city or town, with the day’s choices displayed at the entrance on a chalkboard or a dry-erase board. There is often a drink or a dessert included as well. Since there are many dishes that tend to show up on menu boards each day, here are a few common ones that are easy to find. Ceviche. This one is a classic Peruvian seafood dish that is made from pieces of raw fish marinated in chili and lime juice, served with a side of Peruvian boiled corn and a slice of sweet potato. While you can also take ceviche as a main course, it makes a nice light starter. Papa a la huancaina. Literally meaning “potato made in the Huancayo style,” papa a la huancaina is like a cold potato salad with an ever-so-slight kick. It consists of slices of boiled potato drenched in a sauce made of cheese and the Peruvian yellow pepper. It often comes with a slice of boiled egg and a Kalamata olive on top. Though you can find it all over Peru, it’s most commonly found in Lima and the Andean region, including Cusco. Tequenos con queso y guacamole. Tequenos are like the ultimate pub food. They are little fried packets of cheesy goodness that you can dip in guacamole. You can also make them at home with just wanton wrappers, string cheese and a deep fryer.
For the next course, the dishes tend to be quite a bit bigger and heavier. They often come with a side of rice, potatoes and/or salad. Here are a few segundos that you can keep an eye out for. Aji de gallina. Picture a slow-cooked stew of tender shredded chicken, simmered with Peruvian yellow pepper and a splash of milk. It’s often served over boiled potatoes with a side of rice. It’s tasty, warm and will keep you feeling cozy on those cold Andean nights. Tacacho con cecina. This is a dish from the Amazon region. Tacacho is mashed plantain that has been fried in pork fat and then rolled into a ball. Meanwhile, the cecina is a thin, tender piece of salty pork that has also been fried. While just thinking about this dish may give you a heart attack, it’s worth trying just once because it’s crispy, salty and so tasty. Asado de alpaca. Another Andean specialty, asado is a roasted meat dish served with boiled potatoes and garnished with a bit of raw onion. It can be made with chicken, beef or pork, but in some Andean towns, you can find it made with alpaca steak. Alpaca meat is similar to beef, but has a softer texture and a milder flavor.
If you aren’t completely full after such an enormous meal, then you’ll be pleased to know that Peru has an astonishing array of choices for desserts, everything from rich chocolate delights to lighter choices made with the exotic fruits of the Amazon. If you’re in the mood for something very sweet, you can try suspiro a la limena, a pudding made of caramelized milk, meringue and a bit of cinnamon. Or, if you’re hankering for a donut, you can try picarones, which are sweet potato donuts served piping hot and drizzled with molasses. These are just a few of the culinary delights that await you in Peru. If you enjoy tasting new things and getting to know a culture through its food, then this is the destination for you!
Sophia Guida has been living in Lima, Peru off and on since the beginning of 2012, where she works as a freelance writer/photojournalist and takes every opportunity to explore the areas left out of the guidebooks. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. This article was written on behalf of Tucan Travel, experts in providing tours all over Peru where you can sample the food to your heart’s content.