While most people know Peru as the Land of the Incas and home to Machu Picchu, it is quickly gaining a reputation for another facet of its culture: the food. From the perspective of a North American, some of Peru’s culinary favorites can seem a little intimidating. Roasted rodent? Skewered heart? Spicy stews so hot that they routinely reduce a grown man to tears? All of these things are the norm in Peru. If you’re getting ready to travel there, prepare your stomach for some truly delicious–and unusual–food. Here’s a peek at what you can expect:
In the U.S. we have a habit of turning rodents into pets. While stateside you frequently see a guinea pig in a cage, surrounded by fresh bedding, toys, and snacks, in Peru the only time you’ll see one is served up on a plate, surrounded by fried yucca and condiments. Cuy, or guinea pig, is a traditional Peruvian dish that remains popular in rural locations. In the most authentic locales, guests are invited to choose their own guinea pig from those that run around the restaurant. Cuy are typically fried or baked and served whole.
Every city, every country has its version of grilled meat on a stick. In Peru, the traditional version of this street-food staple is skewered cow hearts, known as anticuchos. Whether you’re rolling out of a disco at 3am or are just looking for a quick and easy mid-afternoon snack, you can rest assured there will be a street cart nearby with a pile of these tasty treats ready for your enjoyment.
3. Seco de Cordero
Though not immensely popular in the United States, lamb is a favored meat in many countries around the world, including Peru. Looking at the name, you’d think “Seco de Cordero” would roughly translate to “Dried Lamb Dish,” but there’s nothing dry about this meal. It’s actually a stew of lamb and potatoes, plus more garlic and cilantro than you’ve probably ever seen or tasted. It’s served on a plate alongside white rice–just like nearly every other Peruvian dish. Those opposed to eating lamb may find versions made with chicken if they’re lucky.
Few people know that the potato originated in Peru, and, as a result, the tuber is featured in many traditional dishes. Causa features layers of cooked potato, avocado, hard-boiled egg, and other fresh ingredients stacked up high, usually in a beautiful presentation. The whole thing is served cold and often accompanied by hot sauce. In fact, few meals are ever served without a flavorful, homemade hot sauce in Peru.
Unique flavors aren’t limited to just the main courses in Peru. Lucuma is a native fruit that is largely undiscovered outside the country. It looks somewhat like a mango, though the complex, iron-rich flavor bears little resemblance to that other tropical fruit. This flavor is hard to describe and certainly not for everyone, so you’ll need to try it for yourself to see which side of the fence you fall on. Your best bet at enjoying this locals favorite is buying a lucuma ice cream bar from one of the ever-present ice cream vendors that roam the streets and beaches of Peru.
Lest you think all the food in Peru is unusual compared to what you eat at home, I must point out that other national favorites include things like rotisserie chicken, french fries, and stir-fried rice. No matter how adventurous–or not–you’re feeling during your vacation to Peru, you’ll have your choice of plenty of excellent food and drink.
Before you go, make sure you brush up on those Spanish skills so you can order with confidence as you navigate Peru’s exciting culinary scene! Contact us to learn more about the one-on-one and group Spanish-learning opportunities we offer, and ¡Buen Provecho!