Thanks to chefs like Gaston Acurio and Virgilio Martinez, Peruvian gastronomy has been in the global spotlight for a few years now.
Before them, Peru was not really considered as a trending gastronomic hub. For most visitors, local fare used to mean roast guinea pig, nibbled en route to Machu Picchu. How things have changed!
As a result of a nearly 500-year melting pot of Spanish, African, Japanese and Chinese immigration and native Quechua culture, Peru’s traditional dishes have evolved into today’s bewildering array of culinary styles from delicious Nouveau-Andean cuisine to surprising Asian-Peruvian fusion dining.
Here are some of the best foods you should consider while visiting Peru or simply going to your local Peruvian restaurant:
This is a dish with loads of flavour. It’s basically stir-fried chunks of steak, together with onion, chunks of tomato, with oregano and chilli to taste. It’s close to what you would probably consider ‘Chinese’ food as it comes directly from the 19th century Chinese immigrant communities in Lima.
Massively underrated, this is an absolute classic. It’s essentially layers of cold mashed potato, fish, tomato, egg, seafood, chicken, corn and avocado. Excellent choice as a fairly light summer dish, it’s delicious.
Aji de Gallina
A cracking winter warmer of a dish: a creamy chicken dish slightly spicy and bright yellow from the famous aji amarillo peppers, thickened with nuts and bread and brought to life with a splash of pisco. It’s a dish to be served in a big dish in the middle of the table and set everyone loose, great fun and easy to make.
Papa a la Huancaína
Very good as a starter or side dish, this is actually simply a boiled potatoes salad in a spicy, creamy sauce. The sauce can make a great dip for crudités as well!
Arroz con Pato
Perhaps the most emblematic dish from northern Peru, this is a delicious beer-braised Peruvian duck served with an incredible richly flavoured green rice.
Peru’s most popular and most famous dish yet is deceptively simple, a Ceviche dish is slices of very fresh white fish (generally seabass or sole) that are marinated in lime and red Peruvian chilli – and served with sweet potato and thin slices of raw red onion.
In Lima, chicharron is a hugely popular breakfast treat on weekends. To make chicharron, pork is boiled first and then fried to make crispy slices of meat that go very well together in a sandwich with fried sweet potato and ‘salsa criolla’.
In Peru, anticuchos are a traditional street food of skewered slices of ox heart marinated in a blend of local herbs and spices including aji panca chilli and aji amarillo, garlic and cumin. These sound as if they would only be for the strong stomached – nothing could be further from the truth. This stuff tastes like fillet steak. Don’t tell everyone or the butchers around here will start charging £30 a kilo for ox heart!
This is Peru’s fantastic version of refried beans and rice – a simple, nutritious, and savoury combination. Commonly, it’s served ‘a lo pobre,’ with seared streak, fried egg, and plantain, but it can also be served as a side to fried fish.
Chupe de Camarones
A delicious and hearty shrimp soup with yellow potatoes and corn, this is wonderful in the winter, especially when a little extra heat is added by way of some aji amarillo.
If ever you find yourself in Peru during September, factor in some time in Lima as it hosts the most important food festival in Latin America. Held since 2008, ‘Mistura’ has become one of the major components of promotion for Peruvian gastronomy attracting up to 500,000 national and international visitors.
The theme of this year’s event, which will take place from 2 to 11 September at the Costa Verde of Magdalena del Mar, is ancient cuisines from around the world.
Besides dozens of food stands, the popular Grand Market, live music, performances, and speeches by world-renowned chefs from Peru and abroad, the gastronomic fair will include an international pavilion with the participation of other countries with great culinary cultures such as India, Morocco and Mexico.
Ready to explore for yourself?