With claims of over 500 unique dishes, a world-renowned chef, and inspiration dating back to the Incas, Peru is emerging as the latest in global culinary hotspots. Ranging from the sweet taste of neon-colored Inca Kola, the savory tang of a lemon zested ceviche, and the just plain unusual look of a fully cooked Guinea Pig, enjoying a meal in Peru is an experience to remember. Here are nine mouthwatering dishes to tempt your tastebuds in Peru.
1. Lomo Saltado
Pulling influence from the large Asian community residing in Peru, lomo saltado has become a signature dinnertime staple. Strips of sirloin steak are cooked in a wok, smothered in a soy sauce based layer and topped with onions, roasted vegetables and rice. Large steak fries complete the dish and taste even better doused in the lomo’s extra sauce. Taste one of the more renowned versions at Don Bosco in Lima’s Jesus Maria district. One dish will run you 15 soles, or less than six dollars!
Perhaps the most well known of all Peruvian dishes, ceviche takes on a whole new look and flavor in this country. Carefully selected pieces of fresh, raw fish are marinated in a lemon-based sauce, topped with onions, and served with a side of corn and sweet potato. While you can find this dish readily available throughout all of Peru, the coastal towns are naturally the prime spots to enjoy ceviche. Head to the often-overlooked fishing town of Chala on Peru’s Southern coast. For fewer than 20 soles ($8), try any of the town’s beachfront cafes for a plate of ceviche mixto that will introduce you to the true meaning of fresh fish.
3. Aji de Gallina
Craving a meal of rich, buttery texture? Soft boneless chicken breast is smothered in a sauce of melted cheese, cream, grated nuts, and Peru’s traditional chili, aji to create the iconic dish of aji de gallina. Served with a mound of rice, half a boiled egg, and a side of olives, this dish is picture perfect with its yellow cream running across each plate. At celebrity chef Gaston Acurio’s restaurant chain Tanta, this dish will run you 29 soles, or roughly $11.
When your sweet tooth kicks in, head to Park Kennedy, the central attraction in Lima’s Miraflores neighborhood for a plethora of food cart options. Red-colored mobile shops sell all sorts of sweet varieties from freshly popped popcorn and churros, to slices of fruit. The star of the show however is the picarones truck. For just four soles enjoy these slices of squash and sweet potatoes, deep fried donut style and served piping hot with a thick helping of honeyed syrup. Endorsed by Ricardo Palma himself, picarones are the perfect snack for those lazy summer nights.
5. Pisco Sour
No meal would be complete without an accompanying cocktail, and when in Peru, you raise your glass with the Pisco sour. Long the source of a heated debate between Peru and Chile over the actual origin of the drink, the Pisco sour ignites a fierce sense of patriotic pride between both parties. Created with a base of Pisco, an alcohol derived from grapes and mixed with limejuice, bitters, and syrup, this cocktail makes one tangy sip. In typical nightlife fashion, this cocktail ranges in price depending on your location, but an average drink is 14 soles, or just five dollars. The secret ingredient? Egg whites are added to create that iconic, fluffy Pisco sour look.
6. Guinea Pig
Travel is all about adventure, and the dining in Peru is no exception. When taking a risk on an all-Spanish menu, you may want to prepare yourself for the Andean delicacy, cuy. Served whole, you can expect an entire plate of roasted Guinea Pig, teeth included for 15 soles, or five dollars. Just make sure not to catch a glimpse of the live versions. Most restaurants usually tend their own farms of Guinea Pigs, often times keeping them in the very same kitchen your food has been prepared in. Still need some encouragement? Don’t miss the Peruvian version of The Last Supper on display in the Cathedral of Cusco. This version depicts Jesus and his disciples feasting on these very rodents.
One of Peru’s more artistic creations, causa can take on various shapes depending on its ingredients, and the mastery of its chef. Created by two sandwich layers of potato and filled with a variety of mixtures, this dish is the ideal blend of Peru’s renowned flavors. With filler options ranging from ceviche and lomo saltado to avocado and cheese, it’s easy to see why this dish has become a household staple. Throw together all your week’s leftovers and create your own original version at home. For the ultimate causa experience however, head to Lima’s Mi Causa, a restaurant that serves up a menu’s worth of varieties, all priced around 15 soles or five dollars.
8. Inca Kola
Don’t let the neon yellow color fool you. Inca Kola has replaced Coca Cola’s popularity in Peru, so much so that the soft drink mega-company was forced to invest in this local beverage favorite. Drawing on the Peruvian’s love for anything linked to their illustrious history, and adding in a super sweet flavor (think less Coca Cola, and more Surge), Inca Kola has become a countrywide craze, and a source of national pride. For just 1.50 soles, you can pick up a bottle at the street carts lining almost every road in Peru.
Walking down the street of almost any city in Peru will grant you the warm, meaty smell of sizzling anticuchos. These slices of beef hearts are marinated and grilled to perfection, before being served shish kebab style. A plate of four skewers with a healthy serving of potatoes or corn will run you about 10 soles, or $4. The best part? These juicy mouthfuls are the perfect snack for a day on the run.
- Leora Novick