Foodie favorites in Peru

10 October 2012

The sites aren't the only memorable experiences of Peru; the food can't be topped, too. Check out my must-try Peruvian foods, all of which were big hits to us!

Kelly and I gorged ourselves until our bellies nearly burst and our taste buds numbed. We were rarely hungry, yet always eating. Isn't that how traveling works?

Some of our favorite grub to make the list of our favorite food from Peru:
  1. Alpaca burgers
  2. Yuca fries
  3. Lomo saltado
  4. Beef heart
  5. Guinea pig
  6. Chifa
Rumor has it, eating guinea pig is equivalent to having a fancy lobster dinner in rural areas of central Peru. It's a delicacy unlike any other. And in some restaurants, you can hand pick your guinea pig before it takes the heat. Or, you can let the server choose your dinner and the fate of yet another Peruvian rodent.

Guinea pig |

According to our guide Marco, Peruvians don't typically store much of their food in refrigerators. Instead, they craft meals with seasonal produce and chow down before refrigeration is ever needed. As Marco said, you'd be hard pressed to find a restaurant in central Peru that serves top-notch ceviche after 4 p.m. By that time of the day, fish is no longer fresh. In his words, you'd be better off saving your Imodium for another day. Wise words, Marco.

San Pedro market in Cusco |

Many of our dinners consisted of heavy servings of potatoes, breads, pastas, rice and beans with a little red meat or chicken. Like European dinners, Peruvian's dine late and wind down slowly. I always enjoy that when traveling. Meals away from home are meant to take time, be savored and spent in good company with a few too many bottles of beer and wine. There's no ways around it, and I'm certainly not complaining.

Lomo saltado was a big hit for our group. And being a meat and potatoes kind of girl, I can't help but root for the dish pulling at my Midwestern heart strings. Cover crispy handcut french fries with sirloin strips, red onions, sliced peppers and garlic sauteed in a warm, hearty gravy, and you've got this girl hooked. It was on nearly every menu, and it tempted me each day. But as much as I knew this savory dish couldn't disappoint, I needed to sample a few other native dishes before choosing my top choice. And you know Peru, you never did me wrong.

Lomo saltado |

Although lomo saltado ultimately secured the no. 1 spot as my favorite Peruvian dish, I have to give no. 2 to the street food: beef hearts, charred chicken and potato skewers. We were drawn in by the charcoal aroma, sizzles from the grill, and seriously-impressive waiting line. That's the clincher. You know it's going to be a good dinner when the whole town is willing to wait for it! And for about $3 USD, we enjoyed one of the best meals of our trip. The locals helped us place our order, advising us to go for one of each skewer. They waited anxiously as we took our first bites, not surprised when we flashed big smiles and two thumbs up.

Beef hearts and potatoes |

I never remember to pack small snacks for international trips, but maybe it's best that I don't. When I'm hungry, I always manage to find a vendor serving up something fresh, unique and worth a try. While on our way to Ollaytantambo, a little woman with a big pot of boiling water greeted us curbside. She was boiling up corn on the cob and slicing fresh, squeaky cheese. Well, you should know I never turn down cheese. Ever. Whether she knew it or not, that little woman had my sale in the bag.

The corn was not at all what I expected. Unlike sweet, juicy corn on the cob that I'm most familiar with, this corn was grainy, with a harsh texture and bland flavor. But it paired deliciously with the cheese (what doesn't?) and satisfied me for our three-hour drive.

Queso fresco |

Now, I hate to admit that I fell in love with fast food in Peru, but I'm willing to take the criticism. Forgive me if you will, but I genuinely urge you to give in and order up some Chifa in Lima. I've never tasted unauthentic Chinese food this good in my life! I'm sticking to my recommendation, and I hope not to disappoint you. As our guide said, we tasted the Peru travelers come to enjoy but now we needed to visit the restaurants many Peruvians are keeping in business. We're always up for trying new foods, and this was better than expected!

Chifa in Peru |

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