After more than a month here I still have not written anything about the Peruvian cuisine – and as it’s really worth a blog, I hope I’ll have your mouth watering half through this blog J
Peru actually has a lot of specialties. Especially here at the coast it’s all about fish. The probably best known and an all-days favorite is Ceviche. That’s a dish a raw fish and seafood (shrimps mostly seem to be cooked), marinated in lime, garlic, onion, coriander and chili. It’s served with corn (you’ll find this in practically every dish here) and sweet potato (a beautiful compliment to the spicy and sour Ceviche!). It’s served cold. Locals tell me that Ceviche is a typical midday dish – but thank god you can find it in evenings too. Especially when I was up in Piura and surroundings I basically lived of Ceviche. It’s become a regular for me on the weekends.
Another special is the so called “Causa”. This is also a starter (Ceviche is officially also a starter, but the portion is always large enough for the main meal). Causa is basically a “tower” built of mashed sweet potato, avocado and fish or seafood. It looks and tastes fantastic!
Another dish which actually reminds me of a mix of paella and Asian rice is the so called “Arroz Chaufa” (which translated just means fried rice), and mostly comes with seafood or fish, but you also find it with chicken or meat. Always served with limes, it tastes excellent.
Going over to the meat side of Peruvian meals, you find all sorts of excellent steaks here: beef, lamb, alpaca to just mention a few, but alpaca is definitely the specialty here. Alpaca is basically the baby brother of a lama, it looks very similar but is smaller (here’s the photo). And it’s meet is lovely and tender, and tastes delicious! This is something you find especially in mountainous areas like Arequipa or Cusco. It’s mostly accompanied by various different potato mashes, all spiced differently but all equally delicious.
Something you find all over is Lomo Saltado. This is basically pieces of beef, spiced, cooked with onion, sweet pepper (mostly red pepper), tomatoes and coriander, accompanied by rice or potato. I have had this in all types of places all over the country and it always tasted really good.
Another specialty is Anticucho. This is basically heart and other innards, mainly of beef and chicken, on a skewer. Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking now. But it actually tastes delicious. It is served with potato and corn. THE place to eat this is the famous “Tio Mario” (“Uncle Mario”) in Barranco.
Before coming to the drinks there are three other really lekker dishes I would like to mention. One of them is “Papa Rellena”: this basically just means stuffed potato and might not sound very exciting to you – but: you find it in soooo many different varieties that it gets exciting! Firstly, this is really a potato country – there are sooo many different varieties of potatoes. And all of them can be filled, of course. Most commonly you probably find it filled with a mixture which reminds me of the South African Bobotie. It’s a mince meet mixture with onions and raisins, nicely spiced of course like all dishes here are. This is really good! In Arequipa you’ll find “Rocoto Relleno”, stuffed pepper, an amazing dish too: Rocoto is the spicy pepper in Peruvian cuisine. It’s the shape, color, and size of a red pepper. It’s boiled to soften, then stuffed with finely cut steak or minced meet, cheese, black olives, ground peanuts, various spices, sometimes raisins, then baked.
Last but not least – you must have been waiting for this one, Alice: the famous Cuy – or guinea pig. As you see in the photo, it is much bigger than our pets we know. Crisply baked and all tender inside, it tastes delicious. The meat actually compares to chicken, but it’s more juicy and tender. It mostly comes served with the usual potato (sometimes sweet potato, sometimes the “normal” one) and corn.
Have I got your mouth watering by now? I do hope so, because I’m feeling hungry just writing this J
But now let’s go over to the drinks, because Peru has nothing to hide when it comes to drinks either!
THE national drink is Pisco Sour. Pisco is basically a Schnapps made out of grapes, similar to Grappa (don’t tell any Peruvians I said that though J). Now, Pisco Sour is a great cocktail made out of that Schnapps. The basic Pisco Sour is Pisco mixed with fresh lime juice, beaten egg white, syrup, crushed ice and a couple of drops of Angostura bitters. They also make it in all different flavors, from Maracuya (Passion Fruit) to Mango, from Apple to Cinnamon. It’s sweet, so you don’t notice how strong it actually is – but I wouldn’t recommend having more than one if you have not eaten yet J
Peru actually also has really good wine. But don’t try to go to any wineries to try wine, because they give tourists (even those who actually show interest like I did) the very worst wines, often much too old (they gave me a white Sauvignon Blanc from 2005 to try. When I told them that it was much too old because it literally tasted sour and like pure alcohol the guy told me that that’s what Sauvignon Blanc tastes like. Thank god I know better – but I don’t even want to know how many tourists he has bullshitted out of Sauvignon Blanc). But they actually make really good Malbecs and Cabernet Sauvignos – definitely comparable to Argentinian or Chilean wines. But this is just one side of their wines. The other side are the “Vinos Artesanales”, which basically means manually produced, as opposed to the mass production of industrial wines. The artisanal wines are much sweeter, basically like a desert wine, they remind me a bit of Port wine. They are really good too – and when you go to a artisanal winery you actually get to taste the good stuff!
Oh and last but not least – the beer: Here too, you get industrial beers and artisanal beers. The industrial beers are very good and varied – my favorite is the Cusceña Negra (a dark beer). Oh but the artisanal beers! They are truly amazing, and you get them in all sorts of different flavors. One of them has a slight lime taste – oh it is sooo good. The artisanal beers are slightly stronger than the industrial ones, between 6-8 percent.
This is longer than intended again, and I probably forgot half, but I hope that this has given you a mouth-watering insight into the Peruvian cuisine.