Peru’s Andean Cuisine
You are backpacking around Peru to see it all; the ruins, the culture, and above all the food! You’ll have to read up before you set out in order not to miss the specialties. Your cheapest option is to visit restaurants that have ‘menus’ wherein you get a soup, a main dish and a drink, but to try some of the specialties you’ll have to dish out just a little bit more. Sure you can go to the design restaurants of Cusco, but it might befit your experience to find the holes in the wall.
In any case, traveling Peru to sample culinary delights will entail a meticulous palette that is open to new wondrous tastes. Andean food is particularly known for its unique meat ingredients, often coming from the highland animals alpaca and llama. Also, they use guinea pigs, sheep and pig. A typical Andean diet is based on corn, potatoes (Peru having the greatest variety of potatoes in the world, with over 4,000 kinds), yucca and maca.
You can find ostrich meat in Arequipa although it’s not very popular. What is popular, however, is the highland lake trout. In between Lima and Cusco, perhaps you can stop at Abancay for a traditional fried trout meal, which usually comes with steamed potatoes and white rice.
This article is meant to inspire you to explore the dishes of Andean gastronomy. As such, here is a short list of the meals that are absolutely necessary to try.
You might want to get your camera ready to capture the techniques in cooking the Andean favorite pachamanca. Pachamanca is pork or beef cooked with veggies and herbs underground over heated stones. They usually cook a lot at once, so you’ll want to snap some photos of the intricate process. Pachamanca is eaten with the hands, so make sure you wash up before.
Another Andean meal is the cuy chactado, which is fried guinea pig. It might be an interesting experiment to find the meal to go, take it back to Pariwana Cusco and eat in the bar in front of everyone; that’s right, give em some ideas!
Andean cultures have depended on various tubers for sustenance for millennia. Olluco is a yellow tuber that resembles the small sprout potatoes you can find nearby the hostel at the main market of Cusco. Olluquito con charqui is a meal of the cooked crunchy tuber with jerky. In fact, the salted, dehydrated charqui, which is a Quechua word, is where the English ‘jerky’ comes from. The only difference is that here in Peru, the jerky is usually llama or alpaca!
Rocoto relleno are stuffed spicy chilis. Ifyou can handle a bit of sizzle on your tongue, this is the meal for you. The chilis are generally stuffed with pork or beef, egg, onion and olive. They’re cooked with potatoes that are doused in milk and cheese.
Speaking of potatoes, another Andean dish is tocosh, which is fermented potato pulp. With so much dependence on potatoes, you were bound to find something different in terms of potato preparation! In Ayacucho, you can find puka pikanti, which is white potatoes, beets, mint, peanuts and chili peppers all cooked up together.
Andean cuisine is reason in and of itself to travel Peru, partaking in each and every se dishes in Lima, it being the mega-hub of everything Peruvian, but you’ll save money and gain experiences by making your way to each town and city instead!