What to eat in Peru
Peru is an Eldorado for foodlovers. To go there is to eat there. But be aware, if you are a vegetarian, it might be tough for you.
Peru has so much to offer. The country is literally divided in 3 parts: the forest on the eastern side, the Andean mountains in the middle and the coastal part on the western side of the country. A lot of variety, in culture, architecture and of course also in food.
The flagship dish of Peru undoubtedly is the Ceviche. A soupy bowl of chopped up fish bits and onions etc. Even if that does not sound so yummy, it tastes fantastic. Personally, I prefer meat over fish, so most food I tried was meat based.
With meat, the most famous and at the same time most feared national dish surely is the cuy asado – the grilled guinea pig. Cuy has been on my (food) bucket list for many years. I have tried (and failed) to eat it already when I was in Ecuador or Peru. So, for me it was clear, I will not leave Peru without having tried the guinea pig. You can imagine, I had my mind (foodwise) set on the guinea pig and look at all the menus of the restaurants, asked every local we met where to eat the best one etc.
In the beautiful Andean town of Cajamarca it finally happened. In a small local restaurant, we ordered a whole cuy. It sounds big, but even though the guinea pigs there are a bit bigger than the European ones it was not so much for 2 people.
I expected to wait for quite some time, because the cuy needs to be on the barbecue for some time. My surprise was big when they already came with the plate after about 15min. Of course, first we took the mandatory images to prove to everyone that we finally did it, and then we tried. The taste was very good, I would say a mixture between rabbit and chicken maybe. And the meat was quite soft. Also, it came with all the good inner parts, the heart and liver and all. So, definitely a dish to try.
But Peru has much more to offer. For vegetarians it is a tough country. Even though they have fantastic veggies and fruits there, the usual Peruvian dish contains meat.
Chicken, beef or fish at the coast. And, like in Kenya, they follow the “all of it” principles and east also livers, hearts and other intestine parts.
When walking around in Peru, you will notice the word “anticucho” many times. There are even Anticucherias. Basically, an anticucho is meat on a skewer. While anticuchos can be made of any type of meat, the most popular are made of beef heart (anticuchos de corazón). And guess what, I tried it. Also this meal was delicious and I can only recommend it.
The most memorable dish for me was the Pachamanca. By now you know I love food and I love to learn about how different cultures live and prepare food. The Pachamanca is a good example for this. It is a traditional dish from the mountain region, cooked in a huatia, an earthen oven, similar to the Hangi from New Zealand. The preparation takes a while, with digging a hole in the ground, making fire, heating stones over the fire and then putting the meat on. All of this will then be covered with grass and earth and after around two hours, the meat is ready. Typically, a large amount of meat is cooked because of the long preparation. Of course, you don’t do this every day, so being invited to a Pachamanca is a high honour. Together with the meat, the Peruvians also bake potatoes, green lima beans and other veggies, depending on the region.
We were invited to a feast, the Pachamanca was so delicious. It was accompanied by some more potatoes, sweet potatoes (camote), humitas and tamales. Humitas and Tamales are a corn dough mixture with cheese or fruits (or regionally different contents) wrapped in a corn leave. Humitas are sweet, Tamales salty, but both are very nourishing!
Are you hungry yet? But wait, there is more!
One of the most surprising dishes was something very simple. For breakfast or for a snack during the day, a palta sandwich is simply amazing. Palta is the Peruvian, or rather quechua, word for Avocado. So, a palta Sandwich is simply some fresh cut Avocado in bread, warm or cold.
Now all I did was talk about food. What about drinks? Well, also here, Peru has a traditional drink that is very popular. No, not Inca Cola. This is also popular, but there is something more natural: Chicha Morada. Chicha’s main ingredient is black corn and it is usually made by boiling the corn with pineapple, cinnamon, clove, and sugar. In Bolivia they have the same under the name «Api» and it is really delicious.
Europeans will have a strange Christmassy feeling when drinking it, as the looks and the taste remind Europeans a lot of mulled wine from Christmas markets. But Chicha (or Api) usually don’t have alcohol in them, even though you can get Chicha also with alcohol.
Of course, if you need something a drink now, Peru has it covered. Just go to any bar and order a Pisco Sour. Perus National drink, and so yummy! And if you are lucky, it is accompanied by some warm Cancha Chulpi (check the images). Basically it is popped corn that pops on the inside - imploded Popcorn. You could easily live from Pisco Sour and Cancha Chulpi....
Now, did you book your ticket to Peru yet? What are you waiting for? For sure, you will not return hungry!
What are your favourite world cuisine dishes?
I am a swiss photographer (www.fmphotography.ch),
a travel, wildlife, volunteer and outdoors addict who cares about zero waste, the environment and simply our planet.