Peruvian cuisine is reason enough to flock to the South American paradise of Peru. From award-winning restaurants to time-honored traditional cooking methods and plenty of fresh, seasonal flavors, here’s how to make the most of Peru’s food scene.
A Traditional Andean Meal in Cusco
Loaded with guinea pig, alpaca meat, fried trout, chicken soup, quinoa and a never ending supply of potatoes, the traditional Andeal meal is a must-have when visiting Peru. The country is home to over 3,000 varieties of potatoes and some of the best are found throughout the Sacred Valley, just around the corner from Cusco, the basecamp town for visitors to Machu Picchu.
Lima’s Award-Winning Dining
Lima is the melting pot of Peruvian cuisine as you can find restaurants with a focus on Andean, Amazonian and fine dining styles. The city is home to multiple restaurants ranked in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants top ten, with Maido and Central near the top. But the focus of the city’s culinary scene revolves around Pisco Sours and Ceviche. There is nothing like sitting cliffside over the Pacific Ocean in Lima at sunset with a Pisco Sour in hand along with the freshest plate of Ceviche you have ever laid eyes on. For the ultimate Ceviche, visit Al Toke Pez. Apart from Ceviche, you will always find locals munching on the famous Lomo Saltado (Peruvian stir fry) and Aji de Gallina (Peruvian Chicken stew), two Peruvian food staples.
Drink Pisco in Ica
Pisco, Peru’s national spirit, derives from the area surrounding the town of Ica in southwestern Peru. Ica is home to both the oldest winery in South America (Tacama) and the oldest distillery (La Caravedo) in ALL of the Americas. When the Spanish were colonizing Peru back in the late 1500’s they brought grapes with them. They found that the area’s windswept deserts weren’t making the quality of wine that they found back home, but they were able to produce something new—Pisco. To this day, Pisco is a staple in Peruvian cuisine and you will find the best of the best in the Ica region.
Adobo in Arequipa
Like Cusco and Lima, Arequipa has its own delicious food scene. You will find plenty of Papa and Rocoto Rellenos (stuffed potatoes and peppers) at the busy Mercado San Camilo while you can seek out Anticuchos (skewered beef hearts) at every street corner. For a cold day, Chupa de Camarones (shrimp soup) and Ocopa, boiled potatoes with a spicy peanut sauce, should warm you up.
The snacks of Arequipa embody Andean food culture well, but it’s the traditional Sunday meal that sets Arequipa apart. Adobo, a ridiculously savory and scrumptious pork soup, is a must-eat while in Arequipa. The pork chop is slowly simmered all day in a pot with onions, rocoto pepper, peppercorn, garlic, cumin, stock and other magical Peruvian spices. You will only find it as a special on Sunday afternoons, so order it fast before it sells out.
Recipes from the Amazon Rainforest
If you’re a foodie, you can’t go wrong with Amazonian cuisine. Probably the most famous dish from the Amazon, Juane, a bean and rice dish, will blow your mind. This traditional meal originating from the Peruvian jungles consists of chicken, olives, hard-boiled eggs, rice and beans seasoned with spices like turmeric, oregano, and cumin. The rice and beans are mashed together into a ball, stuffed with the rest of the ingredients, then steamed in waxy bijao leaves (similar to banana leaves). The final result makes for one of the best dishes in all of Peru.
If you like fish, good luck finding something more fresh-caught, buttery and as delicious as from the Amazon region. Mean and nasty in the water, but delectable on a plate, Piranha makes for an excellent dish. Steamed in palm leaves with some fresh herbs, this infamous fish melts like butter on your palate. Eating fish straight from the source of the Amazon River is quite a treat.
Along with eating Peruvian cuisine, meeting different native tribes and local people to learn about their practices and lifestyle is hands down one of the most unique things you could ever experience while visiitng Peru.
All photos featured in this article are courtesy of Ryan Tingle Photography.