Until Eat Your World can travel to Peru to really delve into the country’s incredible cuisine, we’ve relied on the excellent uploads of our users and now, this guest post from Willa Ahlschwede, spotlighting five favorite frequently encountered dishes.
Ceviche mixto. Photo: EYW user Jessie
Peruvians love to talk about their favorite foods, reminiscing about a home-cooked birthday feast or a strange dish enjoyed on a school trip years ago. The country encompasses a surprising variety of climates, from the Amazon jungle to the Andes mountains, and any resident will rattle off with gusto the typical dishes from his or her region. Though today many platos tipicos can be enjoyed all over Peru, these dishes evolved based upon the ingredients that thrived locally, and each bite provides a brief, delicious insight into the place from which it comes. Here are five popular Peruvian dishes to seek out on your travels around the country.
Photo: Matthew Barker
This tangy, spicy dish is known around the world, but the residents of coastal Lima claim that true ceviche can be sampled only in their hometown. Chunks of delicate raw fish are marinated and slightly cooked by acidic lime juice (plus a touch of orange juice) and flavored with onion, hot pepper, and cilantro. Cevicherias in the capital city range from the down-home, like the venerable Canta Rana (Génova 101, map) in the Barranco neighborhood, to hip gourmet spots like El Mercado (Hipolito Unanue 203, map) in Miraflores.
Any visit to Iquitos, Puerto Maldonado, or other cities in the Peruvian Amazon is incomplete without tasting juanes: a bundle of turmeric- and cumin-flavored rice and chicken, wrapped up and cooked inside the large leaves of the bijao plant. These perfectly portable meals are sold on the street and found dolled up in fancy restaurants. Named for John the Baptist, the dish, which has an oblong shape, is said to represent the head of the martyred saint after he was decapitated by Salome.
Papas a la Huancaina. Photo: Feralbt
Papas a la Huancaina
Named for the town of Huancayo, this simple dish is a favorite all over the country. You need only a blender to whip up this creamy fresh sauce made from slightly spicy aji amarillo peppers, fresh cheese, milk, and crackers or bread crumbs. Poured over thick slices of boiled local potatoes with hard-boiled egg and olives for garnish, and served on a bed of lettuce, it’s a favorite Peruvian comfort food.
Even Cusco locals get excited for good chicharrón: chunks of tender pork, fried slowly in their own fat until just slightly crunchy. Different from Mexican chicharrón, or fried pork skin, the Peruvian version is deliciously meaty and served alongside golden potatoes (also fried in pork fat) and a refreshing mint, lime, and onion salad to balance the richness. A side street in the historic center of Cusco, Calle Pampa del Castillo, is lined with restaurants that specialize in this dish and its traditional accompaniments adobo, a tangy pork soup, and caldo de gallina, a hearty chicken broth.
This crowd-pleasing stuffed pepper is not to be missed, especially when visiting Arequipa. The rocoto is a very hot variety of pepper native to the Andes, one of few that thrives in the harsh climate. Before stuffing, chefs must remove the seeds and boil the peppers in at least two changes of salted or sugared water to cut the spice. Bursting with ground beef, peas, carrots, and more, they are sealed with batter or a slice of cheese and fried up in a pan. Each cook likes to add a signature surprise filling: raisins, a solitary olive, or even a whole hard-boiled egg!
Ed.’s note: Got a photo of one of these dishes from your Peru travels? Show us!
About the author: Willa Ahlschwede was born in Omaha, Nebraska, but currently lives, travels, and writes from her home base in Ollantaytambo, Peru. She writes on behalf of Tucan Travel, a specialist in guided group adventure tours to Peru.