While traveling throughout Peru it became quickly evident that the diversity and quality of the food is exceptional. Peru is considered 5th in the world when it comes to gastronomy and the Peruvian people take great pride in their culture and food. The passion for the food is contagious and I became addicted to Peruvian dishes like; Lomo Saltado, Juane, and Ceviche but Cuy (guinea pig) on the other hand was a taste which I could not acquire. Along with the food come a desire of the Peruvian people to share and celebrate their culture through food and festivals. Peru is also know for a drink called the Pisco sour which is an alcoholic cocktail thats name comes from Pisco brandy, which is its base liquor, and the cocktail term sour, in reference to sour citrus juice and sweetener components.
The first Peruvian dish I tried in Lima was Lomo Saltado which consists of tender beef, red peppers (aji limo), yellow pepper (aji amarillo) onions, rice, and fried potatoes in a delicious sauce. A variation of this dish is Tallarines Saltado which is similar but with only pasta and is exceptionally flavorful. was instantly addicted to the dish and was really excited about the variety of food and fresh local ingredients. One of the next dishes I believe was Ceviche which I was hesitant to try due to the fact that the fish is raw and only dressed with lemon juice to kill bacteria but I was assured that one bite and I would be addicted and sure enough once I had ceviche it became a weekly dish for me and not once did I ever get sick after eating it literally dozens of times. But word of warning it is best to eat ceviche before noon or your risk increases and locals will look at you like you are loco. Traditional ceviche consists of local fresh fish, corn, onion, sweet potato, red peppers, lemon juice, and cilantro but there are many variations. One variation that is especially delicious is a ceviche from clam called “Choritos a la Chalaca” which has a unique flavor profile compared to to other ceviche and a beautiful presentation.
I found that Shirley had a favorite dessert which is especially popular in Lima Called “Picorones” which is a pumpkin based batter similar to the funnel cakes you get at fairs in The United States but made in the shape of a thin donuts and dressed with a syrup made from sugar cane. The cane juice is boiled for a long time until it becomes a molasses and that is made into balls, that are called “Chancaca” they boil that ball with orange peel, cinnamon, clove, fig leaves, and that becomes the syrup for the picarones. But other people make it by boiling water with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, orange peel and is very unique and compliments the picarones perfectly. During our time in Lima Shirley had a delicious meal called “Arroz con Pato” (rice with duck) which is a green rice with liquefied coriander, carrots, peas, and duck breast. It also has black beer and a creole onion salad with parsley and sweet chili. Like with all meals in Peru absolutely delicious and hearty. Another dish we had while waiting for our laundry to be cleaned while staying in Lima was at a very nice restaurant serving fresh fish of all kinds on display. We had A dish called “Sudado” which they take the entire fish and fry half, make soup from half and sauté the entire fish dressed with sauce. onions, and peppers. The main dish may look scary but is very flavorful and fresh.
While living in Puerto Maldonado I had the pleasure of going fishing with Shirley’s friend Joaquinas husband Marcos see my blog “Learning to cast net with Marcos in the Amazon” After Marcos and and I had fun catching many fish his wife Jaquina made a simple delicious soup made from devil fish or In Spanish “Carachama” and the soup called “Chilcano“. With the soup rice and yucca, wild cilantro, (Sachaculantrol) which gives a pleasnat smell and perfect final touch to the Chilcano. To accompany the soup are delcious pickled onions and peppers. Very simple light soup with amazing flavor and perfect for hot weather.
Almost every morning Shirley and I would got the Tres’ de Mayo market and have breakfast normally consisting of handmade “empanada” a pastry filled pie consisting normally of egg, olive, beef or cheese but comes in may variations, pickled onion and peppers, yucca ball, fresh juice, and coffee.
Another great dish Shirley and her mom make is called Tallarín de casa con estofado de gallina which is Chicken stew with homemade spaghetti, carrots, peas, and tomato. This dish reminds me a little bit of Italian food and is one of my favorites. Another dish that I grew fond of and Shirley and I ate often at small family owed places was Pollo canga. This is Grilled chicken dish with rice, yucca and roasted banana ball. It is very common in Peru to have multiple carbohydrates and starches in one dish, so if you are into the whole Keto thing you will be in trouble. A variation of this dish is Tacacho con cecina which is roasted banana ball with dried (smoked) pig meat. A great salad I enjoyed was called Ensalada mixta which consisted of purple cabbage, fried ripe banana, fried sweet potato, cucumber, and tomato in a lemon vinaigrette.
Shirley and her mom also made many amazing dishes for different celebrations in Peru including Friday soup an Easter seafood soup which is very good and filled with everything fromn the ocean including; shrimp, eggs, A very good soup but the eggs I gave to the dog. Also a great dish I like has fried fish “paco” accompanied by corn “choclo” which I call “big corn” because the size of the Kernels accompanied with potato and salad called “soltero” all very delicious and unique to American taste buds.
A great dish from the Amazon is called Patarashca. Fish “paiche” wrapped in bijao leaf with roasted banana ball with wild tomato chili and is a wonderful native dish with a flair. Another common dish in this region is Chuleta de carne con tallarines verdes. Which is a variety of chopped meat with green spaghetti. (coriander and liquefied spinach) Similar to a pesto type past with seasoned grilled meat.
While is Cusco we had many great dishes including Trucha al horno con puré de papá. Baked trout with mashed potatoes. And one of Shirley’s favorite soups Sopa de quinua Quinoa soup which is made in many variations. A popular drink in Peru is Chicha which a beer made from fermented sprouted corn and is quite refreshing and delicious depending on who and where it is made. It has a sour flavor profile but some communities add puree=ed strawberry which gives a sweeter taste. I was told that some communities also have used a type of pepper which increases the blood alcohol content.
During our time staying with Shirley’s family in Anancy, the Apurimac region of Peru I had the opportunity to eat an amazing soup made from duck, cilantro, tomato. onion, black beer, and, rice. The soup was made by Shirley’s aunt Beba for her uncle Ramiro’s birthday and the soup is called “Aguadito”. Perhaps one of the most delicious soups I have ever tasted. The celebration for Ramiro’s birthday was wonderful as all celebrations in Peru are and everyone appreciated the soup Beba spent all day making. We ended the evening with many rounds of drinks, a soccer game between US and Peru which coincidently ended in a tie. Shirley’s Uncle Omar and Aunt Iza who where the most amazing hosts took us to a local restaurant in Abancay called Araujos with a really unique atmosphere mostly outside with a variety of grilled meats, potatoes, and corn. I had Baked chicken with salad and corn “choclo” with chemichurri sauce which was very tender and juicy filled with flavor and the small purple potatoes which are sweet are perfect compliments. For more on my experiences in Abancay see previous blogs “Lima to Abancay” and “Choquequirao, Sayhuite, and back to Abancay.”
My blog would not be complete without mentioning “Hornitos Pizza“. I know what your thinking, really pizza but it is absolutely one of the best pizzas especially in Peru and nothing says comfort like a good pizza pie especially when you are Italian and Hornitos always delivers a good pie. Shirley and I normally ordered half pineapple and the other half just cheese. Also some they have some of the best lemonade on the planet. A unique touch is that they serve very good bread sticks that are served with a pepper sauce instead of tomato sauce which was a nice change from the traditional.
One of the last soups I had on my last trip to Peru was at Shirley’s sisters husband Beto’s grandmothers restaurant which was a house chicken soup with the chicken running around as you ate, so the soup is about as fresh as you can get and very hearty and delicious. The soup we had at Beto’s grandmother’s house in Spanish is Caldo de gallina.
I can say without a doubt that Peruvian food is some of the best food i have ever tasted and I feel very blessed to have had so many wonderful experiences and been a part of such amazing celebrations. I am grateful i will have many more opportunities in the future to dive even deeper into Peruvian culture and cuisine with my Peruvian friends and family.