Last Sunday, 15th September, was the final day of the renowned Mistura Festival in Lima, one of the most important gastronomic events in the world. The festival is a folkloric event which every year pays homage to the gastronomic heritage of Peruvian cuisine and the country’s unique biodiversity. It is also a demonstration of gratitude to people who work hard every day to deliver ingredients to make eating time the most pleasant moment of the day. Among them are peasant farmers, fishermen and cattle breeders who bring the most distinctive character to the festival showing up in their traditional costumes and bringing the most typical produce from the Amazon, Andes and Pacific Coast.
Peruvian gastronomy is conquering the world as much as Macchu Picchu has conquered the hearts of travellers. It’s no wonder that the country has picked up the title of World’s Leading Culinary Destination 2012 , or that among the top 10 of the prestigious San Pellegrino Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 3 Peruvian restaurants were named 1st, 4th and 7th at a ceremony in Lima last week. Statistics from the Latin American specialist airline Air Europa also show that Peru leads as the most popular Latin American destination and food tasting seems to have become one of the reasons for this.
The most impressive thing of all in Peru is that people can have decent food anywhere, from the homemade empanadas, chiffon and turrones sold in hand-carts at every street corner, to the haute cuisine restaurants. It becomes so overwhelming trying to taste everything before you leave because every time I go there I arrive with a long list of things to try and places to eat but along the way I discover new things and places that my list always ends up longer than when I arrived!
If you find yourself in the Americas’ culinary heaven, there are certain things you cannot leave the country without having tasted. For the sake of the length of this post, let’s look at only the most typical and unmissable foods.
CEVICHE. Going to Peru and not having ceviche is like going to Rome and not seeing the Coliseum. Fresh raw fish marinated in lime juice, a piece of camote (sweet potato), a leaf of lettuce, chilli and typical giant fresh Peruvian corn and/or dried salted corn called cancha. It’s the Peruvian dish par excellence and if you get in a conversation with a local, the first thing they will ask you (after “How do you like Peru?”) is “Have you tried ceviche?”. One of the most characteristic places to eat ceviche is the Muelle de los Pescadores on the Costa Verde, a little fishermen port where small and very basic restaurants serve the freshest fish. A must.
PAPAS A LA HUANCAINA. It means “potatoes Huancayo style”. Boiled potatoes are covered with a layer of delicate fresh cheese and yellow chilli (aji Amarillo). Always accompanied with half a boiled egg, a black olive and a leaf of lettuce. Typical of the city of Huancayo, in the central highlands of Peru.
CAUSA RELLENA DE ATUN O POLLO. It’s a cold yellow potato gateau where the layers of potatoes are alternated with a mix of chicken, mayonnaise, avocado, red onion, black olives and chilli. Chicken can be replaced with tuna, prawns, mixed sea food or vegetables. It is one of the most popular and delicious dishes of the Peruvian cuisine.
OLLUQUITO CON CHARQUI. Olluquito is a little potatoe that grows in the Andes and has a very distinctive taste. It is much moister than other potatoes and comes cooked with charqui, dried lama or alpaca meat. It is a very representative plate from the Peruvian Andes as it is made with typical local ingredients.
ARROZ CHAUFA. This is a dish that represents the fusion between Peruvian and Asian cuisine following the immigration flows during the 1900s. It’s a mix of fried rice, little pieces of omelette, pieces of fried ham or chicken, Chinese onion and green peas tossed in the wok with soy sauce and oil.
There are many other dishes, desserts and drinks people should make sure to try while in Peru, especially the delights that street food has to offer…but I will talk about this in my next posts.
Have I made your mouth-water? Are you looking forward to learning more about Peruvian culture, tradition and folklore? If you are planning to visit Peru, speaking the language is always one of the best ways to discover the country and its people. If you are thinking about learning Spanish, try the FREE Rosetta Stone Latin America Spanish demo and before travelling don’t forget to download the FREE Rosetta Stone Travel app which provides you with travel-based language essentials.