Flavors of Peru

By Viator, November 2013

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Peruvian cuisine is typically South American, but with some surprises! Alongside indigenous and Spanish fare, you’ll find influences from China, Italy, Africa and Japan.

Based on the staples of corn, potatoes and beans, Peruvian food is generally highly spiced, though with chili served as a condiment you can usually control the heat. Other common ingredients include rice, wheat, maize, tomatoes, quinoa, kiwicha and peppers.

Street and market food is a highlight, and Western meals like pizza and pasta are served alongside grilled chicken and meat.

The first of those culinary surprises is cuy, or guinea pig. The cute furry creatures we keep as pets at home are served skinned and grilled in Peru, and of course taste a little like chicken.

Other more challenging dishes include a plateful of cow brains or grilled alpaca meat. Seafood ceviche is popular, marinated in lemon juice and considered something of an aphrodisiac.

Ceviche dishes are very popular in coastal regions of Peru. In Lima, you’ll also find cheese or meat empanadas, chicken with rice, ham rolls called butifarras and, as you’d expect, Lima bean salads. Northern areas might serve goat stew or pork soup, while the cuisine of the mountainous Andes regions remains based on maize and potatoes, just as it has for centuries.

Guinea pigs tend to be fried rather than grilled in the Andes, and the stuffed peppers (roccoto relleno) served here can be very hot, so beware. Festive dishes like pork are cooked on an underground bed of heated stones. In jungle areas, avoid eating bush meat and endangered critters like dolphins, tortoise eggs and monkey.

Sweets are Spanish-inspired, like alfajores pastries, nougat, fruity ice cream called lucuma, rice pudding, pumpkin fritters and milk puddings.

The national drink is the famous pisco sour, made from egg white, sugar, lemon or lime juice and brandy. In the tropical heat though, there’s nothing better than a locally brewed cooling beer.

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