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Landscape of Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Top 10 Food and Drink To Try in Peru

By Vicky Lessen

Last updated: 18th January 2013

Whilst on my 4 month trip to South America last year, I spent a lot of time in Peru not only exploring but expanding my palate by experiencing the typical, local dishes traditional to this Latin American country.

Peru is a country known for its humongous variety of potato, boasting to have more than 3500 different types. From this potato growing country comes some of the tastiest, interesting and inspiring dishes you will ever try. It is true to say that you will not have a bite that will not posses flavour and punch, as seasoning and spice are at the heart of all these Peruvian dishes.

1. Cuy (Guinea Pig)

The guinea pig is an animal we are used to seeing running round a hutch outside in the garden and I would know as in my life time I have owned two. These squeaky creatures however are seen as more of a food source in Peru, originating from the Inca period where Guinea Pig was a source of protein. It is now a delicacy that many tourists and travellers come to Peru to try, not only to say ‘I ate guinea Pig’ to all their friends at home, but also due to its appearance when it comes out on the plate.There have been mixed views on the taste of this dish, some hate and some love it but it is one definitely to try. However this is a dish not for the faint-hearted So Vegetarians may want to avoid ordering ‘cuy’ from the menu.

2. Anticuchos

The word antichucho actually translates to ‘cut meat’ and basically looks like a kebab. In essence it is a type of kebab; however the main ‘cut’ of meat that Peruvians enjoy is ‘anticuchos de corazon’, heart to you and me and most commonly beef heart. This dish/snack can be found on the street or in restaurants and can be eaten for lunch dinner or as a snack. It is flavoured with a special seasoning containing a chilli pepper called ‘aji panca’. It is a traditional dish loved by both locals and travellers (in fact my boyfriend was obsessed with the stuff in South America) and your local guide should tell you where the best vendors/restaurants are to get this cuisine.

3. Chifle

For me this was my favourite snack to munch on the long bus journeys between towns. Chifle you could say are a type of crisp but made from banana slices instead. However they are not to be confused with banana chips, found in the health food shops of the UK, as they do not actually taste anything like the banana they are made from. Fried and lightly salted, they taste just like an addictive packet of crisps and are sold almost everywhere you turn, from street sellers to supermarkets these are a cheap snack to take on the road.

4. Huancaina Sauce

Huancaina is a fantastic sauce for those cheese lovers out there. This yellow sauce is traditionally sold as part of a dish called ‘papa la huancaina’ which consists of potatoes covered in huancaina sauce and topped usually with a boiled egg, served as a starter in most restaurants. However the huancaina can also be used for pasta dishes and I even adopted the sauce for dipping crisps into! It does have a slight kick as it contains a chilli pepper called ‘aji amarillo’ but being someone myself who doesn’t adhere to the idea of eating spicy food, it really isn’t strong at all.

I fell in love with the sauce and actually brought some dried chilli back so I could create this dish at home. Don’t miss it.

5. Pisco Sour

I first tried this drink at a party in Peru and after two small drinks I was happily merry. It is a very strong cocktail which is served in every bar in Peru. The spirit called Pisco is a grape brandy which originated in Peru. However the people of Chile disagree claiming it was them who invented the brandy, a touchy subject for either citizen. The drink is made from 1:1 parts Pisco and lime juice with a dash of sugar and an egg white to produce the white froth on the top. It is served with crushed ice and delightfully refreshing in the hot weather but extremely dangerous! Order a Pisco Sour in your local bar.

6. Arroz Chaufa

Arroz Chaufa to me and you is simply Chinese rice. Believe it or not every Peruvian will love and know how to make this Chinese dish. Peru itself has a high number of Chinese restaurants so make sure you find yourself in one as the price for a meal is dirt cheap and will leave you thinking how much do you pay for a take-away at home!

7. Ceviche

The number one meal you shouldn’t miss out whilst on your travels. Almost every tourist I came across in Peru adored Ceviche and it comes as a starter or a main dish.

The white fish is marinated in lime juice, onions and chilli and this concoction kind of half cooks the fish so it is raw on the inside but burnt by the acidic juices on the outside.

8. Chicha Morada

Chicha Morada is a traditional non-alcoholic beverage made believe it or not from purple corn. It is indeed just like your corn on the cob you have with butter at tea time but it is purple. It has the appearance of ribena and the taste of something I have never tried.

Give it a go, it can be found at all your local restaurants, shops and bars.

9. Inca Kola

Owned by coca cola, this luminous non-alcoholic drink is in every Peruvians household, and why not? It tastes just like bubblegum and who doesn’t like bubblegum? Make sure you get your hand on a bottle of this stuff, you will miss it when your back home.

10. Alfajores

This is a treat for anyone with a sweet tooth. You can snack on them or have them as your dessert! This delicious cookie is similar to a jammy dodger just lacking the hole in the middle and instead of jam there is manjar blanco, a caramel made from sweet milk. They are extremely fatty but worth every bite.

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