Probably the best way to describe Lima is “the culinary centre of Latin America“. Combining national and international flavours, spices and delicacies to keep its growing culinary reputation high in the air.
Two important and basic needs any backpacker in Peru has, are something affordable and nice to eat and a good place to party hardy from time to time. Peru excels in both aspects in many ways, with a lively party scene at night and culinary highlights throughout the day.
As everywhere else in the diverse Peruvian landscape, the food changes with the geography. As different crops become limited and others more abundant, you’ll find a variety of culinary delights unmatched anywhere else in the world. Backpacking to and from is of course the best way to go about it.
No matter where you go in the world, a person needs to eat! Hence, the questions quickly turns into; how is the food in Lima, is it spicy at all, what should I avoid, is everything clean and fresh and what to do when the food decides to turn on you?
You’re already traveling as a backpacker in one of the culinary capitals of the world. Peru’s food is touted as some of the most culturally diverse on the planet, and journeying from the north to south, east and west is one of the best ways to experience this gastronomic wonder.
Peru is renowned for its gastronomic capacity to please backpackers and travellers alike. As a cheap traveller who likes to prepare, you’re interested in finding out about food quality in the country. It is true that sanitary standards are lower here than in the Western world, a reflection of not just lower education in certain areas, but mainly as a lack of resources to control it all.
After weeks or months of adventure travel on a backpacker budget, sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself to a meal at a highly rated restaurant. Luckily, the food scene in Cusco is thriving and the variety of dishes is astounding. Chicha and Uchu are excellent choices, and both are located within a few blocks of Pariwana Hostel.
The Lonely Planet describes Tarapoto as “a sweltering jungle metropolis”. While it is a bit far from being a metropolis, this is definitely a hot vestige of the vast Peruvian jungle. Whether you have been traveling in the cool Northern highlands, or along the coast which is cold during our summer months, or perhaps just finished trekking in Huaraz, Tarapoto is a welcome change in climate where you can finally put on some shorts and get an ice-cream of an exotic flavour (granadilla? guanávana? chirimoya? — it’s your pick!).
Perhaps you’ll be walking down the street in Lima, after checking into your hostel, backpack load set down in your dorm room. Perhaps you’ll pass by a market and see the cute little furry guinea pigs in a cage trampling over one another. You’ll think, “oh, how cute!” However, here in Peru Guinea Pigs are not kept as pets-they’re eaten.
Now, I know what you’re thinking-that it’s a shame that such furry cuties are skewed up for the split. You might have had a guinea pig as a pet when you were younger, or perhaps you’ve seen one of those “cute animal wheels” videos, where they stick their soft pink noses into the camera. All of this previous history will make you aggressively anti-guinea pig cuisine, if you let it.
Though, none of your history with this animal has anything to do with the fact that here, guinea pig is a delicacy. You’ll find the meat on sticks, fried and chucked in with chifa rice chaufa, or marinated in some delicate sauce that’ll make your mouth water.
If you’ve eaten rabbit, guinea pig is not much different. You will be happy to know that the meat is high in protein, and low in fat and cholesterol. Indeed, part of the effort you’ll have to put forth to eat it might include tearing it off of the bony carcass.
Guinea pig comes from Peru in the first place, so it was a mark of cuisine before it was a pet. Of course, for you vegetarians out there, it might be neither. Unfortunately this is not the article for you, so it’s best to turn away now. And as for those who aren’t convinced, you should know that Peru exports a new breed of “super guinea pig” to Europe, the US and Japan. Yes, it’s for eating.
So, should you eat the guinea pig or not? As long as you’re in Peru, there’s nothing strange about the act. Guinea pigs have been cooked for centuries, and were once sacrificed to the Incan gods. In a morphological coincidence, you might see depictions of The Last Supper with the players eating roasted guinea pig!
If you’re someone who likes to try something new, then this is for you. Otherwise, just try not to look the guineas in their hollowed out eye sockets!
Lima is becoming increasingly popular on its culinary highlights. Thousands of different bakeries, eateries and restaurants accommodate for a full and varying tasting experience for all type of backpackers and budgets. Besides that, you can try our cheap and great hostel kitchen where we serve typical Peruvian delights, popular international dishes and organize the occasional barbeque!
This article gives you a peek into where to eat out in Lima, paying the right price for food, and some practical pointers when tasting Lima’s highlights. To make it a bit easier, we divided the options in 3 categories:
Where to eat like a backpacker: quick and cheap
Miraflores is a booming backpacker hot-spot covered by many cheap eateries. An eatery generally offers a handy “menu” (appetizer, meal and drink), or you can order a separate dish with a cheap drink while sitting at a bar or on a simple table with some chairs.
These economical menus come in all varieties (read more in Lima’s cuisine) and you usually don’t have to grab more then US$ 3 or US$ 4 out of your pocket to satisfy a growling stomach. And to make it really cheap, you generally don’t have to worry about tipping in an eatery.
Grabbing a bite in an eatery relies on your own best judgement when it comes down to cleanliness and hygienic standards. When passing an eatery, remember to select one that has a fresh and clean look, maybe even peek at already eating customers to get the best judgement of whether the eatery meets up to the standards you are looking for.
And don’t forget to check out our great Peruvian cuisine in our Pariwana hostel Lima, with great local dishes for backpacker prices!
In the end, the handiest indication for good food with the right price, check out where the local Peruvians eat their cheap and quick meals in Miraflores and join in!
Here are some cheap eateries around our hostel in Miraflores:
Decent meals for a good bargain
If you have an extra buck to spare, or you want to have some more choices than in the eateries, check out the options available in the “middle range”. A mid-range restaurant is a typically a bit more fancy than an eatery, coming with higher levels of service, presentation, cleanliness and variety in foods.
With some nice music on the background you don’t have anything to complain if it comes to ambiance, feel and quality. For eating out in this type of restaurant, you can except to pay anywhere between the US$ 5 and US$ 15, mostly depending on the popularity of the exact location within Miraflores. Tipping is a more common and relied upon by the personnel in the mid-range restaurants. In some cases the tip will already be included in the bill.
Here are some of the mainstream restaurants around in Miraflores:
Eating out in style
Miraflores is one of Lima’s trendsetters if it comes down to displaying Peruvian culture and cuisine in all its glory. These stylish restaurants cater for the backpackers that really wants to dive into the wealth of Peru’s culinary experiences. Enjoying the highest service on prime locations in Lima and compared to back home, you get 100% more than what you are used to for the same price!
The food in these places accommodates well for the western lifestyle, where Peruvian and international dishes are presented with class. Most restaurants are set on prime locations along the beautiful coastline or the main squares and hotspots in Miraflores.
For eating in one of these establishments, you do receive really the finest culinary delights that Lima can offer. With this also comes the slightly higher price tag, with prices generally starting around US$ 20, going up to some US$ 50 in Lima’s prime spots. But if you do have the money to spare, take this opportunity to enjoy the highlights from Peru’s cuisine!
Here are some recommendations of our classy restaurants in Miraflores:
Now you know where to eat, but still wondering what to eat? Read our post on Lima’s great kitchen, or get some handy practical tips what to be careful for when eating out.