Peruvian Food

When it comes to Peruvian food, most visitors will be pleasantly surprised with the relative complexity of Peruvian dishes. The cuisine of Peru is quickly becoming recognized as one of the greatest in the world, and when you put it up against other Latin American countries, it generally takes the cake. Food in Peru is a mix of indigenous influences and those of the country’s immigrants, a good bulk of which arrived in the 1800"s. Four continents are reflected in Peruvian food, with major influences being African, Basque, Italian, Japanese, French and British. As for the traditional food of Peru, it depends primarily on the region of the country you find yourself in. Coastal Peruvian dishes, highlands specialties, and the tropical fare of Peru all exhibit their own qualities, making for a most interesting culinary experience. Peru food is spurring the expansion of pan-Latino restaurants around the globe, and with so much to offer the palate, dining in Peru should be a highlight of your Peru vacation.

When it comes to the coastal traditional food of Peru, it is understandable that seafood is a staple of many coastal dishes. The most notable coastal Peruvian food might just be ceviche, which has its foundations in early Peru history. Ceviche is a dish in which the seafood is “cooked” in citrus juices, which are the base of the ceviche marinade. In coastal cities like Lima and Trujillo, ceviche is often made using shark, as well as sea bass and sole. Generally a white fish is used, and the ceviche usually includes sliced onion, chile peppers, and other flavors. Chupe de camarones, or shrimp cioppino, is another signature coastal Peru food, and it consists of a freshwater shrimp stock soup, that has added to it milk, potatoes, and chili peppers. Chupe de camarones is considered a typical dish in Arequipa, for example. Scallops often make the menu along the coast, and you should try escabeche if you like fish dishes. It features fish with eggs, prawns, onions, olives and peppers. For a break from seafood, try aji de gallina, which is a chicken dish that finds some of its tang in the added chiles. Influence from the Spanish Conquistadors can be found in the traditional food of Peru that is offered in the cities of Lima and Trujillo. Also, creole cuisine is of significant importance when talking about Peru food, particularly in the capital. You can find Peruvian dishes and international ones in Lima, and Cusco has a growing number of international dishes, among Peruvian favorites.

As you might imagine, a heartier form of cooking developed in the mountains of Peru, with staples including meat, corn, rice and potatoes. You can expect to find Lomo Saltado on many a menu in the Peru highlands, and it is basically comprised of beef strips that are served with a mix of potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and onions. Rice comes on the side. Stuffed peppers (rocoto relleno) are savory in this part of the country, and if you have ever wanted to try guinea pig, or cuy, you can do so in the mountains. Cusco has restaurants serving cuy, and you might try it there before or after your trip to Machu Picchu. Yum. In both the highlands and along the coastal region of Peru, a popular special occasion sees Peruvians enjoying a pachamanca, or roast. A variety of meats can be used for the pachamanca, which involves cooking the meat with herbs and vegetables on an underground bed of hot stones. Restaurants serving pachamanca dishes are springing up in Lima, particularly. As we move east down the slopes of the Andes into the Amazon Jungle region of Peru, we again see water-dwelling creatures making the menu, among the most prominent of which figure paiche and turtles. Paiche is the world’s largest freshwater fish, capable of reaching over 9 feet in length, and weighing in at more than 400 lbs. Fish is the main part of the jungle diet, with many inhabitants pulling their food out of the rivers. Bananas, plantains, palm hearts, yuca root, and rice tamales often accompany fish and meat dishes in the jungle. In addition to chicken, other game, and sometimes rather exotic creatures, become food in Peru for jungle residents and visitors. Caiman and piranhas are among them.

Of course, how could we leave out drinks. After all, you have to wash down Peru’s world-class food with something, right? If you are in cities such as Cusco and Ollantaytambo, look for a red flag that is hung outside of a small bar or restaurant. It means that they serve chicha, a drink that is enjoyed throughout the country, really. Chicha, which might take some getting used to, is a fermented drink made from maize, and it has its roots in the Inca civilization. But, perhaps the pisco grape is the most coveted when considering the beverage side of traditional food of Peru. The pisco grape can be used to make a brandy, and the famed Pisco Sour, which is Peru’s national drink. A pisco sour is a margarita-like cocktail. It is mixed using pisco brandy, sugar, egg whites and lemon juice, with a splash of bitters. Near the cities of Pisco and Ica, Peruvian wineries are attempting to rival bottlers in nearby Chile and Argentina. Wine lovers might consider tasting the local product, perhaps in conjunction with a flight over the Nazca Lines.

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