If you love food, if you have ever called yourself a “foodie,” you would be doing yourself a disservice by coming all the way to South America and NOT experiencing Peruvian cuisine. In the last few years the world has started to recognize Peru as the culinary powerhouse that it is, but its not just quinoa and pisco sours in the culinary capital of Latin America. Peru’s wide range of climates, cultures and ingredients give Peruvian food a flavor all its own.
A cuisine with Spanish, African, Asian and Incan influences come together to create an authentic fusion of flavors and ingredients. Every major city in the world today is now full of restaurants selling “fusion food,” but for Peruvians, fusion food is always on the menu. They can put the whole world on one plate, and they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years.
Like the rest of the Americas, Peru experienced a large influx of immigrant from Europe, Africa and Asia. Without the familiar ingredients from their home countries, these immigrants used what was available in their new homes to recreate the traditional meals from their home countries. Traditional Peruvian cuisine consists heavily of potatoes, corn, and chili peppers. The Spanish conquistadors brought along with them rice, wheat, chicken, pigs, and cows.
Peru is an extremely bio-diverse country and is home to 84 life zones out of the 104 that exist on the planet. This allows a wide range of plants, fruits and animals to thrive in Peru and is the reason Peruvian food has such a diverse list of ingredients. So much geographical variety has helped distinguish Peruvian food into three distinct culinary regions, coastal, mountain, and tropical.
In coastal Peru, seafood dominates and is generally served with corn on the cob, toasted corn, sweet potatoes or perhaps a stuffed avocado. The food from the mountainous regions is much more traditional, using ingredients and cooking methods used by the Inca hundreds of years previous. Dishes consist heavily of potatoes, rice, corn, and beef or pork. Soup are also quite popular and generally contain onions, eggs, and spices and perhaps a trout caught in lake Titicaca. Fresh tropical fruits, vegetables and meats from the Amazon Basin make up the tropical Peruvian diet. Plantains and yams (yucca) are very popular and make there way into many of the dishes from the area.
A Lesson on Peruvian Cuisine
Ok, now its time to eat. Here is a list that made Peruvian food famous. When you visit Peru use this as a checklist; you can’t leave until you’ve tried them all!
This exceedingly popular dish of lime and pepper marinated fish; shrimp scallops and squid could be considered Peru’s favorite food. Bite size pieces of seafood combined with chili peppers, onions, sweet potatoes and toasted corn and a light spicy flavor.
Those wanting to live like a local, to truly experience the culture of Peru must try Cuy. Cuy is a staple in the Peruvian diet, and so important that many Peruvian families raise them in their homes. For English speakers cuy is called something else, guine pig. The meat is usually baked or barbecued on a spit and served whole, with a flavor that has been compared to rabbit. You’re on a South American adventure; soaking up the local culture, far away from home and what you’re accustomed to, why not try something new?
Many Chinese immigrants came to Peru looking for work and created this new world stir-fry. Take some beef, tomatoes, peppers, onions and potatoes and mix them in a pan with soy sauce and you have this delicious take on stir-fry. Serve over white rice and enjoy.
Aji de Gallina:
This rich and creamy stew is made of yellow aji peppers, chicken, condensed milk, and is thickened with bread.
This popular food is found everywhere in Peru. Skewers of marinated meat, traditionally beef heart, are grilled and covered with a savory garlic sauce.
Pisco is the main ingredient in the cocktail that has exploded in popularity across the globe, the delicious and refreshing Pisco Sour. Pisco is a type of grape brandy produced in Peru and Chile. The fight between the two countries over who first created it has gone on for hundreds of years and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. A Peruvian Pisco Sour combines Pisco, fresh lime juice, Simple Syrup, and 1 fresh egg white. These ingredients combine to create a delicious and refreshing cocktail that will leave you thinking about ordering one more.
Don’t be fooled, that’s not a boring old bell pepper, that pepper is 10 times as hot as a jalapeno. Don’t worry, its been boiled to reduce its heat then stuffed with spiced and sautéed beef and hard boiled eggs then covered with cheese before being baked. Enjoy.
A tree fruit that could be confused for a mango and with a flavor compared to maple syrup. Try it as a flavor of ice cream.
Pollo a la Brasa:
The popularity of this roast chicken has spread across the world. The smoky and salty taste comes from marinating the chicken in peppers, cumin and garlic. Generally served with a side of French fries and spicy dipping sauces.
This list is by no means comprehensive, if I were to try and fit all the delicious foods Peru has to offer I would need to write a book not a blog post. The bottom line is this. If you love food, go to Peru, you wont be disappointed.
Are you hungry yet?
We recommend satisfying your appetite by going on this popular Lima Peru cooking tour.
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