Peru, crowned as “World’s Leading Culinary Destination” by the World Travel Awards in 2016, and traditional Peruvian food, with its impressive gastronomic diversity and its abundance of flavours, colours and spices, offer an incomparable and exquisite foodie experience.
Lima, Peru’s capital, became The Culinary Capital of South America. And, according to the prestigious San Pellegrino List, Lima houses ten of the best restaurants in Latin America and three of the World’s best restaurants. But it doesn’t mean that only Lima can offer you a tasty culinary experience, but that the whole country also has a wide variety of delicious traditional Peruvian food.
Peru’s rich culinary heritage came from our ancestors but they adopted some cooking techniques from Asia, Europe and Africa as well. Due to that, the cooking techniques of the traditional Peruvian food varies considerably between the regions of the country: Coast, Mountainside and Jungle.
Traditional and Essential Food
This is the National dish of Peru. It is made of raw white fish marinated in lemon juice, onions and chilli, and served with boiled corn, sweet potatoes and dry roasted corn kernels.
The best region to try ceviche is the coast, especially in the city of Lima, where the fish is fresh and seafood is varied. You can find it in almost every restaurant in Peru, but only the best restaurants in Lima will offer you the most exquisite ceviche can you ever try.
As a country that hosts different and diverse cultures from all over the world, this dish is a combination of the traditional Peruvian cuisine with Chinese cuisine. It got its particular and tasty flavour from the woks brought by Chinese immigrants.
Lomo Saltado is made with strips of beef, garlic, chillies, onions and tomatoes stir-fried in soy sauce. It is served with french fries and white rice.
*This Peruvian dish can also be made with alpaca or chicken.
It consists of pieces of marinated beef grilled on a stick and cooked by an open flame. It is served with slices of potatoes.
The beef hearts are marinated in vinegar, cumin and garlic.
Papa a la Huancaina
A delicious dish smothered in creamy cheese sauce which is served on a bed of sliced potatoes. It is also decorated with olives, eggs and a piece of lettuce.
Papa a la huancaina’s cream sauce is made with queso fresco (fresh, milky and bright cheese), Ají Amarillo (a kind of Peruvian chilli pepper), garlic, lemon juice, evaporated milk and saltine crackers. It is often served as an appetizer.
As a part of your Peru travel guide, you definitely have to try this hot-spicy dish. Rocoto Relleno is a stuffed spicy pepper filled with beef, garlic, egg, onions, olives, herbs and spices, and top it off with queso fresco and then baked.
It is originally from Arequipa but it is possible to find it in many restaurants around Peru.
*Rocoto peppers are hotter than jalapeno peppers.
Causa looks like a potato cake which is served as a cold appetizer or a light meal.
It consists of a layer of mash which is made with yellow Peruvian potatoes, oil, lime and spicy Ají Amarillo sauce. Then, the filling which is commonly chicken blended in with mayonnaise (can be tuna or salmon as well), another layer of mash and finally a layer of boiled eggs, olives and avocado.
Ají de Gallina
Famous in the traditional Peruvian food, this is a spicy creamed chicken stew dish which is served on a bed of white rice, boiled potatoes and black olives. The thick and flavorful sauce is made with cheese, ground walnuts, and ají Amarillo.
Something interesting about this Peruvian dish is its history. According to it, when Peru was a Spanish colony, European people brought a dish made with chicken breast and Arab seasoning which became a prototype of the famous Ají de Gallina. The Peruvians adopted and evolved it. So, Aji de Gallina is the result of a combination of European and Peruvian traditions and culinary techniques.
After alpaca, cuy or guinea pig is the most popular source of meat of the Peruvian Andes, mostly served in the imperial city of Cusco and Arequipa.
The cuy or guinea pig is stuffed with herbs, baked over an open wood fire and then served with potatoes. Most of the restaurants in Cusco offers this peculiar dish.
Pachamanca (from Quechua, Pacha: Earth and Manca: Pot) is a dish based on the baking with the aid of hot stones.
The Pachamanca is a mixture of different meats such as lamb, pork, guinea pig, alpaca and chicken, herbs, spices and a range of vegetables such as potatoes, yuca, sweet potato, corn, beans and more… A tasty variety of ingredients! The cooking technique consists of heated stones placed in a hole dug in the ground, an “earth oven”. Potatoes usually go in the bottom, the variety of meats are covered with herbs and spices (often layering on stones between the meat) and the lighter vegetables are placed on the top. The “earth oven” is covered with leaves, grass and ground.
It will take about 2-4 hours until the food will be ready. The result is an extremely delicious smoky dish. Pachamanca has huge cultural relevance in traditional Peruvian food.
Tacacho and Cecina
This is a traditional Amazonian dish (but it’s not hard to find it in Lima). It consists of Tacacho, a mashed green plantain which has been rolled up into a ball and then cooked, and cecina, salty and dry pork meat.
Another traditional Amazonian dish which consists of a piece of chicken, egg and olives all wrapped with rice and cooked in a leaf. In some part of the Amazon, Juane is served with yuca, fried plantains and paiche (the biggest fish in the Amazon).
You cannot skip the sweet side of your tour in Peru.
It is a typical dessert of the traditional Peruvian food which is made of Maíz Morado (purple corn) and fruits. Mazamorra Morada is thickened into a jelly-like texture with cornstarch and spiced with cloves and cinnamon.
*Chicha Morada is also made from Maíz Morado.
This sweet, crispy and chewy dessert with the form of rings or donuts is made of wheat flour mixed with pumpkin (sometimes sweet potato) and then fried. Finally, it is served with syrup or Chancaca honey on top.
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