The Peruvian cuisine is increasingly becoming more renowned and I couldn’t agree more since it’s is one of the most savory, colorful and varied cuisines in the world. Peruvian dishes contain fresh meat and fish, rare and varied spices adding an authentic flavor but also aromatic herbs and ingredients coming straight from a fertile land. And let’s not forget the multicultural influences! From the experiments of the local inhabitants dating back to the pre Inca empire, till the cooking influences of the Spanish and Africans, and later the Italians, Chinese and Japanese immigrants than settled down in Peru: they all contributed to broaden the culinary heritage of the country.
“Meet Peru, where the heartiest of appetites are awoken…”
As a child I lived in Trujillo – a city located in the north of Peru – until my 5th year. We moved to the Netherlands in 1991 where we started a new live in Rotterdam. Each time I went back to Peru for the holidays, I could recognize the smells of fresh prepared food by the vendors on the streets, the sweet smell of fruits at the markets and the strong aromas of local herbs. It immediately took me back in time and made me feel nostalgic about my childhood years living in Peru. Luckily, my parents had learned how to cook typical Peruvian dishes so they thought me how to prepare them myself. We would always buy local spices and basic ingredients to take back to Holland. However, the food didn’t taste as good as it does in Peru. The fresh products, the warm climate and the Peruvian atmosphere really add some additional flavors to your culinary experience and make it an authentic one. That’s why I invite you to book a culinary tour through Peru, I´m sure you´ll be surprised!
If you happen to travel to Peru or perhaps have dinner at a Peruvian restaurant in your home town (Peruvian restaurants are popping up at a fast rate in Europe), it’s convenient to know what to order. Therefore, I’ve listed some of my favorite dishes, drinks and desserts you definitely have to try!
Meet the Peruvian cuisine
The national cocktail of Peru which consists of Pisco (a strong local liquor), squeezed lemon juice and raw egg white with a dash of cinnamon.
Coctél de Algarrobina
A delicious and exotic cocktail prepared with Pisco, condensed milk and artisanal syrup.
A refreshing drink made from purple corn, sweet taste.
Peruvian coke (yellow instead of black) that tastes like bubble gum.
Causa de pollo/atún
Causa is one of my favorite Peruvian dishes (besides ceviche). Causa contains two elements which are basic to the Andean tradition: potato, which is the female element and pepper, which is the male element. Mix these two ingredients and you’ll have a natural balance according to the Andes culture. The potato forms the outer side of the causa yet the inside contains all the good flavours. Causa is stuffed with delicious ingredients such as tuna or prawns with mayonnaise, octopus with olive oil or chicken. > Read how to prepare causa yourself!
Ceviche de pescado/mixto
Raw fish and/or seafood cooked in lemon juice and garnished with fresh onions, cilantro, corn and sweet potato. Ceviche is the national dish of Peru and you can compare it to sashimi.
Tiradito de pescado
This appetizer strongly resembles the traditional ceviche, yet the fish strips are covered with a light creamy sauce made of Peruvian pepper (ají escaveche), lemon and herbs. Note: A ceviche or tiradito are often accompanied with some popped and salted corn (canchita) which matches perfectly with the acid taste of ceviche.
Conchitas a la parmesana
This is one of my favorites dishes in the world! The fresh scallops are easily prepared in the oven: after cleaning them thoroughly, you add a teaspoon of butter and fresh grated parmesan cheese with a drop of lemon juice. And voilá, you’re in heaven…
Tamal is a traditional dish that you also find in Central- and South America. It’s made of a corn-based masa which is steamed or boiled in a banana leaf wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating. Tamales can be filled with meats, chicken and vegetables. I personally love to eat a fresh tamal at breakfast!
Papa a la huancaína
This is one of my favorite appetizers and it’s almost impossible for people not to like this dish. It contains potatoes that are covered with a cheese sauce made with Peruvian ají amarillo pepper. Papa a la huancaína could be a bit spicy, but not necessarily.
Anticuchos de corazón (street food)
If you’ve been to Peru, you probably spotted some locals preparing meat sates on the streets at night. The sates are made of cow hearts, but don’t let this hold you from tasting this Peruvian delight. The meat is marinated with great care and is surprisingly tender. I bet you never tasted something as good as this meat! Anticuchos can also be ordered at restaurants, but it’s more fun to eat a fresh one from the barbecue of the street vendors.
Great appetizer made of fried potato (outside) and seasoned minced meat.
This is a traditional Peruvian dish (Chinese and Peruvian fusion) made with stir-fried beef, onions, hot chiles and French fries. It’s accompanied with some steamed white rice.
Ají de gallina
A delicious Peruvian classic which is slightly spicy and bright yellow from the famous ají amarillo peppers. The taste is rich from the creamy sauce made with ground walnuts. I personally like to add some parmesan cheese on top. Ají de gallina is traditionally served over rice, with boiled yellow potatoes and black olives.
Chupe de camarones (shrimp and potato showder)
A thick and hearty soup that originates from the mountains (Arequipa) made of shrimps and potatoes garnished with corn.
Arroz chaufa de mariscos
A Chinese/Peruvian rice dish prepared with seafood and vegetables. Try to order this at a traditional ‘Chifa’, a Chinese/Peruvian restaurant.
Cuy (guinea pig)
You probably once had rabbit or pheasant at a special occasion like Christmas dinner. But did you ever had barbecued guinea pig as a main? This staple meat raised in many households of the Andes is a true delicacy in Peru! Just to give an indication of how important the dish is to the rural Peruvian diet: In a cathedral in Cusco hangs a replica of Da Vinci’s Last Supper. If you look closely, you’ll see Christ and his 12 disciples are seated around a platter of… cuy.
The meat of the ‘cuy’ does not carry a lot of meat and is usually baked or prepared on the barbecue (on a spit). Cuy is usually served with the head on so for those who have guinea pigs as a pet, ask for the head to be removed or simply don’t order this dish.
Arroz con pollo
A savory one-pot meal prepared with chicken, cilantro, onions, peppers and tomatoes.
Cabrito a la norteña (lamb stew)
Although this meal originates from the north of Peru (Trujillo), there are restaurants in Lima that serve this delicious meal. The lamb stew which is prepared with chicha (fermented corn beer) and has beans and rice on the side.
I hope I aroused your curiosity for Peru’s gastronomic delights with this article? There are several nice Peruvian restaurants in Europe and the US. When I’m travelling abroad I Always tend to look for good places to eat Peruvian food. I already visited the following restaurants:
|Amsterdam – Holland, Casa Peru
Antwerp – Belgium, El Sabor Andino
Lille – France, l’Inca
Lisbon – Portugal, Qosqo
München – Germany, Nasca
New York, Mancora
Photography by (c) Orange Spots, forkingitup.com, elcomercio.pe, cuzcoeats.com, perudelights.com, revista.peruanosenusa.net, perudelights.com, delperu.info