Cuisine

Peruvian cuisine is as diverse as the country itself and the traditional dishes of the coastal zone are very much different than the Selva (jungle) or Highland (Andes) cuisines. Here are some main products and dishes that play an important role in daily ration of local population.

 

First the potato


It’s believed that the potato actually originated in Peru and some estimate over 4000 different types grown throughout the country. It is unlikely that you will find and try all 4000 types, but there is huge variety of potatoes in shops and markets. The local housewives are very strict on what variety they use for cooking, frying, for soups, etc. In addition to more or less familiar potatoes, there is also papa deshidratata – dried potatoes. Indians managed to dry potatoes so that they could be stored for a long time. Before cooking the dehydrated potatoes are soaked in the water for several hours. There is also a very delicious, sweet potato - batat. Although, technically it belongs to different family of plants.

 

The next important product is maize (corn)

 

Some varieties of maize are commonly available:

Choclo. Robust ears of choclo are yellowish-white and sport exceptionally large kernels. Choclo is often eaten with meals in Peru without seasoning. In season, ready-to-eat boiled choclo is usually sold by street vendors. They will wrap it for you in the natural wrapping – choclo leaves, will put a sauce over it and add a slice of homemade cheese. It is unbelievably delicious and costs only 1.5-2 Soles (0.5-0.8 USD).

Purple corn (maiz morado). It is a type of fibrous purple corn that is not eaten but is used to make low alcoholic drink chicha morada and sweet corn custard mazamorra morada.


Маис, Кукуруза

 

Fish

 

Fish is eaten not only in coastal zone but throughout Peru. One of the most famous Peruvian dishes that is served anywhere in the country is ceviche. It consists generally of bite-size pieces of white fish, marinated raw in lime juice mixed with onion for couple of minutes. It is typically served with choclo and lettuce. Restaurants specialising in cevice – the cevicheria – can be found everywhere. The price will highly depend on whether the restaurant serves tourists or local population. In average it is 6-23 Soles.

 

Мeat


Meat is a key ingredient in much of the Peruvian food. Pork, beef, sheep, and chicken are the most common meat items served. A typically Andean non-vegetarian delicacy is cuy frito or cuy al horno (fried or baked guinea-pig). Guinea pigs were domesticated for food by the Incas (maybe even earlier). It is a traditional dish.

There are many restaurants specialised in cooking cuy, they are called “cuyeria”. In Cuzco the whole cuy costs 40-55 Soles (13-19 USD). You can order full or half-portion (which is twice as cheap!). It is served with a lot of various side dishes. It is hard to eat even half of a portion alone. Outside the city you will find restaurants where the prices are twice as cheap and you will pay only 22 Soles (7.5 USD) for full portion. Tipon located 30 minutes from Cuzco is famous for its cuyerias.

 

Fruit


You can buy large amounts of various fruit in the markets: papaya, passion fruit, mango, bananas, fig, and others.

Pay special attention to a fruit called chirimoya. Green, heart-shaped fruit is white, juicy and fleshy inside with several large seeds that look like beans. It is creamy and tastes like candy. One kg (2.2 lb) of chirimoya is 6-7 Soles (2-2.5 USD) in the market.


Чиримойя, Chirimoya

 

Beverages

 

Non-alcoholic drinks


First of all it is mate de coca - herbal tea made using the leaves of the coca plant. It is a universal drink and is drunk always and everywhere: at home and in the hotels, in the train to Machu Picchu. On the "Inca Trail" to Machu Picchu, guides usually serve coca tea with every meal because it is widely believed to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness. It is recommended when you are tired or sleepy, if you have headache or stomach ache, or any other pains, for disease prevention, etc. Since Incan times Peruvians have believed that the coca leaves perform miracles. In addition to the filtering bags that are sold in all shops, you can buy a pack of coca leaves for 2-3 Soles (0.8-1.2 USD) and chew or brew them. It is believed that leaves can freshen you up.  

Everywhere you can see the amusing drink called Inca Cola – light yellow drink with an unusual sweet fruity flavor sometimes compared to liquid bubblegum.

Hot chocolate. Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, the dried and partially fermented seeds of the cacao tree and “chocolate” bars, i.e. pure cocoa paste can be bought everywhere. One 200gr (0.44 lb) chocolate bar costs 4 Soles (1.4 USD) in the market.

The hot chocolate is made very simply: take a small piece of cocoa paste, pour a little amount of water, heat till the cocoa melts, then add milk and sugar as you like.

In an expensive restaurant a cup of delicious chocolate is about 7 Soles (2.5 USD). Cheaper places may use some strange (probably stale) milk and the chocolate tastes awful.

If you are brave enough, try “juice of brown beer” (Jugo de cerveza negra). It is prepared as follows: several various fruits (papaya, mango, etc.) and carrot are put through blender. Then the puree is filtered, mixed with some honey, egg, concentrated milk and dark beer. The result is thick, sweetish, milky and fruity drink with slight taste of beer, while the taste of egg is not felt at all. It is very delicious. 2 big glasses of this drink are 6 Soles (2 USD). You can try it in San Pedro market of Cuzco.

 

Alcoholic drinks


Cuzco has its own beer CUZQUEÑA. It can be dark or pale. In the pubs a glass of beer is about 6 Soles (2 USD).

Chicha. Maize beer. Chicha may also be made from other fruits, even strawberry. In restaurants it is sold in a glass about the size of flower vase. It costs 1-1.5 Soles (0.5 USD). It is very popular and sold in every small town and residential neighborhoods of the larger cities. Normally sold in 'chicherias', which are generally identified in a funny way - by a bamboo pole sticking out of an open door, adorned with (often red) flags, flowers, ribbons or colored plastic bags. Enabling illiterate peasants to find the chicheria.  

Pisco is a strong, colourless grape brandy (35-50%; the most common type – 42%). The origin of pisco has been a matter of long-term disputes between Chile and Peru.

Mainly Peruvians use it in a cocktail Pisco Sour. It is a national “brand” cocktail and its recipe is even printed on souvenirs for tourists. Pisco Sour can be ordered in any pub, restaurant or disco. But it is better to try it in a restaurant, in the pubs and disco they use worse grade of alcohol with serious violations of production regulations. Please drink responsibly.

A glass of Pisco Sour in a restaurant costs 7-10 Soles (2.5-3.5 USD).

If you want to bring a bottle of Pisco from Peru, you should buy it in a supermarket as the airport is very expensive. A bottle of good Pisco is 25-35 Soles (8.5-12 USD) in the shops.