– “And don’t forget to try Pisco Sour and Ceviche!” my good friend Cony reminded me just when we were about to go on our Peruvian journey.
With that fresh thought in our minds, we were able to offer ourselves not one, but two amazing treats on our first day in Lima: indulging in a Pisco Sour (which is like a sour citrus cocktail) while enjoying the beautiful sunset over the Pacific Ocean. What a wonderful start to our new adventure in Peru!
The schedule for our two-week trip to Peru was quite tight. We wanted to cover Lima, The Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Route of Sun, Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon, and Arequipa. If you are wondering how you can see Peru in two weeks, you can read here. We covered a lot following this route, saving some time, which was essential for us. But one thing we never really looked into was the local cuisine, we didn’t know what to expect.
“As long as it is cooked, I’ll try any type of food” was my mental motto.I have always tried a new meal or two in all the places visited so far, so of course, I followed my friend’s advice on the following day too. Very hungry after a long, morning walk in the Lima district, we found a table at a central restaurant and eagerly ordered a portion of Ceviche (a seafood dish).
Not sure what I was imagining, but ceviche (the one on the right side) was served on the same plate with some fried meat and Papa a la Huancaina (boiled potatoes in Huancaina sauce). Although it didn’t look bad, we just started picking at our food. Sadly, we were overly disappointed, and began to wonder whether all our meals will be tasting like this. With this single lunch, one of the central restaurants in Lima district ruined our hopes of enjoying Peruvian cuisine.
The next three days we ate more of basic meals, not wanting to have any unknown surprise.
Our forth day in Peru found us in Ollantaytambo. So hard to pick a restaurant when the main plaza was full of options. We decided to choose one that was down the main street: Apu Veronica Restaurant.
Trucha a la parilla (Rainbow trout) and Alpaca steak was our immediate choice. After a short wait, and a quinoa soup, our dishes came up, still sizzling on an iron plate, put together on a bigger wooden platter.
Washed with Chicha Morada (an Andean beverage made from culli/purple corn), and Cusqueno (Peruvian beer), the texture, and taste were at their best!
Now, that I think about it, I guess this was one reason why we fell in love with Ollantaytambo😊
The next day had arrived and we had to eat again, right? Now we got our bigger dilemma, what should we choose from all these new menus:
– “Hold on… Is this what we think it is?”
Yes, the picture is very descriptive to clarify any doubt what Cuy Frito is. Ok, maybe I was not brave enough to try anything as I previously thought, although it is fried…
Potatoes were present on most of our meals. Fried, or boiled, they never tasted the same. We quickly figured out why; Peru has more than 3,500 varieties of potatoes, the largest in the world. There are over 700,000 families in 19 producing regions who make their living from growing potatoes. And let me tell you they are delicious; you wouldn’t want a meal without them!
We travelled from a city to another, and tried different food. Started to appreciate and savour every meal along our trip, and learned to avoid the busy, crowdy, central places, unless they really had a view.
A cup of Mate de coca (coca tea) was welcomed with every meal. Maybe it’s not as tasty as it sounds😜, but it helps with the altitude sickness.
It was very easy for me to find a favourite meal every day, as I love grilled trout, and all menus offered plenty of them. But we found that the trout is not a native species. Our guide from Taquile Island explained to us that a few trout species were brought in from Canada between 1930s and 1950s to populate Lake Titicaca and the nearby lakes and rivers along Sacred Valley.
Another interesting fact we learned was about Choclo (Peruvian corn). There are about 55 corn varieties, which can have different sizes and colours.
The corn is more often eaten with Chicharron (fried pork), Ceviche, or cheese as choclo con queso.
Although guinea pigs are grown as pets in most of the countries around the world, in Peru, they are considered traditional delicacies. They have been domesticated about 5000 BC by the Andean tribes because they were a good food source in the region. They were originally used in ceremonial meals, but have become later accepted for consumption by everyone, especially in the Andes Highlands. The animal remains important in certain religious aspects, even after colonization. As Peruvian Catholicism followed the syncretism found in most of Latin American countries, in which the native rituals have been combined with Christian celebrations, the animal has been integrated into one famous painting of The Last Andean Supper in The Cathedral in Cusco, where Christ and his 12 disciples dine on a guinea pig.
- Although we tried grilled trout and alpaca at different restaurants, Apu Veronica Restaurant gets the prize, that was the best meal we’ve had in Peru, and the best Chicha Morada.
- One Italian Restaurant in Puno took the second-place prize for the best Ceviche, as well as for the best Pisco (and a pizza). We later found out that we could simply ask for a shot of Pisco rather than Pisco Sour.
- Aguas Caliente got another prize for the most expensive cookie and ice-cream we’ve ever had. But we enjoyed the decorations!
- As for the weird meal, of course, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to try a guinea pig!
~ visited in April 2019
I would love to hear from you:
- Have you tried eating a guinea pig? Would you try?
- What is the best/worst/weirdest meal you have ever had?