Eating Your Way Through Peru
Peru is the uncontested culinary gem of Latin America, having countless delicious plates suitable for any taste or diet. Because of its range in climatic zones, all types of fresh food are readily available throughout the country without the negative environmental impact of long shipping distances. Here, you can enjoy juicy pineapples or mangoes on a freezing night in the highlands, or thick Andean alpaca steak on the beach – all with a clear conscious that you are eating locally. Here are a few descriptions of only a brief sampling of Peruvian dishes – you will find countless opportunities to explore further options.
Popular on the coast, but available anywhere in the country is possibly Peru’s most beloved dish, ceviche. This raw fish dish is “cooked” using a lemon juice marinade and finished off with onions, peppers, sweet potatoes and various other extras making it a delicious and tangy treat famed throughout the world – but you have to come to Peru to enjoy the real thing.
The ancient Incas graced the modern world with two staples to many plates– potatoes and quinoa. Masters at the art of agriculture and early genetic engineers, the Incas helped bring to life more than 4,000 varieties of potatoes, most of which are still used today. This is not only an amazing treat for your palate, but Peru holds the future and safety of potatoes when the monoculture of potatoes used in the rest of the world faces the threat disease. Quinoa has recently gained popularity throughout the world as it is a delicious, versatile power-food. Peruvians are proud of this powerful cereal and have created numerous dishes to showcase its flavor and texture.
As in most Latin American countries, meat holds an important place in all dishes (although in Peru it is very easy to find delicious vegetarian options). One of the most famous is cuy – or in English guinea pig. Although many people find it difficult to eat their childhood pet, it is a delicious staple throughout the Andes that you need to try for its cultural significance and flavor. Usually barbequed whole, head and all, you will find cuy everywhere from street corners to the highest class restaurants in Peru. Walking on the street at night, you will smell the tantalizing scent of grilling meat from the numerous street grills cooking delicious anticuchos. Traditionally made out of beef hearts, they now offer a variety of meats on a stick – topped at the end of the stick with a savory grilled potato covered with a spicy garlic sauce. Finally, another famous meat you will find is Pollo a la Brasa, in fact you will not be able to get away from it as on every block exists a Polleria offering this delicious and cheap meal. Simply marinated in a soy sauce with garlic, cumin, and other spices, then roasted, this delicious chicken is served usually with soup and fried potatoes.
One of the best things to come of Peru’s diverse immigrant population is its delicious fusion dishes. In the 19th century many workers from China and Japan were brought to Peru to work on the railroad and guano businesses, and lucky for us they brought their taste for food with them. Today, Chifa is a popular type of food in Peru as it is a fusion between Asian recipes and Peruvian materials and plates. It is both similar and different to the “Chinese food” you are used to and certainly worth a try as it is very popular among Peruvians.