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Peru Named South America’s Culinary Destination

Peru Named South America’s Culinary Destination

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Peru should be on your list of places to visit before you die

Peru is famous for having diverse culinary offerings that are very distinct from region to region.

Between the World Cup this past summer and the Olympic games coming up in 2016, there has been a heap of fuss about all things Brazil. Well forget about Brazil, because food lovers should be booking their tickets to Peru.

Peru was named South America's leading culinary destination this past weekend at the World Travel Awards, held in Quito, Ecuador, on Saturday August 9. If you need a little more persuading to book that ticket: This marks the third year in a row that Peru has won the award.

Peru is famous for having diverse culinary offerings that are very distinct from region to region. Each region offers locals and travelers alike its own type of cuisine, perfectly catering to the adventurous and hungry traveler who is open to sampling a little bit of everything.

Though seafood plays an important role in Peruvian cuisine, the country is also home to a meat-loving population, specifically guinea pig meat. If you’re not that daring, don’t worry; you can also find beef, pork, and chicken dishes in Peru, along with a heap of other staples incorporated into the Peruvian diet including quinoa, potatoes, squash, avocado, peppers, and other regional vegetables and fruits.

Not only will Peru quell your appetite with its flavor-filled and diverse dishes, but it’s a country that is teeming with history and offers a landscape that you could spend a lifetime exploring.

What are you waiting for?

Alexandra E. Petri is the travel editor at The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @writewayaround.

10 Traditional Dishes You Have to Try in Peru

In 2016, Peru was crowned as “World’s Leading Culinary Destination” by the World Travel Awards for the fifth year in a row. It was just 10 years ago that Peru’s gastronomic boom began, reinventing dishes that had a long tradition in the kitchens of Peruvian families. While a second gastronomic boom of organic and healthy food seems to be happening nowadays, every Peruvian dish offered in restaurants around the world was based on an earlier and more original one. Learn about the most traditional Peruvian dishes here.


This dish is probably one of the most famous foods in Peru. When most people think of Peruvian food, they immediately think of ceviche. Made with raw fish marinated in lime juice, ceviche is a classic Peruvian dish.

Though many people claim the best city to try it is Lima because it’s close to the ocean, Cusco has its own version of ceviche that won’t disappoint. Since there’s no ocean nearby, it’s made with river trout. The dish is tangy and refreshing.

Lomo Saltado

By far my favorite of all the typical foods in Peru! It’s the go-to comfort dish of every Cusqueñan. Lomo saltado is a hearty serving of beef, onion, and tomato stir-fried in soy sauce and served atop a bed of piping hot French fries along with rice.

This dish can also be made with chicken (pollo saltado) or alpaca (alpaca saltada). There are also many vegetarian restaurants in Cusco that serve a meat-free version of lomo saltado, often made with soy meat or mushrooms (champiñones) as a substitute.

Cuy al Horno

Ah yes, another famous food in Peru! Cuy al horno.

Cuy al horno is guinea pig that is stuffed with herbs, baked, and then served whole—head and all.

The first time I tried it was at the restaurant La Cusqueñita with my host Manuel. When the cuy arrived at my table, snarling at me from my plate, I just stared at it, trying to figure out a civilized manner in which to eat this roasted rodent.

“Dig in with your hands,” Manuel told me.

“Like some barbarian?” I cried.

“Start with the hind legs,” he said. “That’s where the best meat is.”

And so, I “dug in,” ripping those little hind legs off in horror. Once I got over the initial shock of its appearance, the cuy actually tasted good, lean and a bit salty, like pork.

While some may say it’s one of the typical foods in Peru, this dish is traditionally reserved for special occasions, such as birthdays. However, it is commonly listed on menus in Cusco because foreigners love to try it.

Rocoto Relleno

What Does Cuy Taste Like?

Most people agree that cuy is actually delicious and tastes a little like chicken. This is probably why it&rsquos such a popular dish throughout South America.

According to Cuy has a deeper, fattier flavor than chicken, with a gamier taste.

Interested in trying cuy yourself? We have two real authentic recipes for cuy: Cuy Al Horno and Cuy Chactado. Have a go and let us know what you think!

Most Popular Peruvian Foods

Cuy (guinea pig)

A typical meal of cuy (guinea pig) served with salad and potatoes

One of the more unique delicacies in Peruvian food is Cuy, a baked or fried guinea pig served with potatoes.

It&rsquos not a regular meal for Peruvians but is often served on special occasions such as holidays and birthdays.

In fact, Peru loves cuy so much that they even have a national holiday to celebrate the guinea pig! It happens every year on the second Friday of October (put it in your calendar!).

However, despite cuy not being eaten regularly by Peruvians, many canny restaurants have it as a permanent fixture on their menus to take advantage of the influx of tourists looking to try the delicacy. So cuy is easy to find if you are ever in Peru.

Cuy as a meal originated in the Andes region of Peru and has reportedly been around for over 5,000 years!

Guinea pigs are an indigenous animal and an easy source of protein for locals.

There are two main cuy dishes popular in Peru:

  • Cuy al horno &ndash (sometimes also called Cuy al palo) &ndash baked guinea pig, cooked over a spit served whole and stuffed with herbs
  • Cuy Chactado &ndash fried guinea pig, often squashed under stones before frying

Before cooking they are often doused in salt and garlic to make the skin crisp.

Cuy is then served with either potatoes, salad, fries, rice, corn, Salsa Criolla (a red onion relish), or Salsa Huacatay (a spicy, green, herb-based sauce).

Lomo Saltado

Lomo Saltado consists of stir fried beef, fries and rice.

What&rsquos great about Lomo Saltado is that it&rsquos a celebration of the multi-cultural cooking techniques that make up Peruvian cuisine.

There are clear influences from Asia, South America and the Western world, making this dish a real melting pot of cultures.

The dish is hugely popular across Peru and is eaten by young, old, rich and poor alike.

Lomo Saltado is a stir fry dish that consists of marinated beef, onions, tomatoes, soy sauce, chili&rsquos, vinegar, spices, cilantro and french fries usually served with rice.

There are many variants of Lomo Saltado that you can try depending on where you go in Peru. But beef steak with fries, chilies and soy sauce is the most common and is the base for most variations.

You can follow this Lomo Saltado recipe if you&rsquod like to try it yourself.


Traditional Peruvian ceviche &ndash raw marinated fish with cancha, onions and potatoes

Ceviche is the most famous dish that comes to mind when you talk of Peruvian food. It is very much a traditional staple of Peru.

Peruvian Ceviche has many variations but typically consists of chunks of raw marinated white fish cured in lemon or lime juices, spiced with chili and seasoned with salt. It is then served with sliced onions, cilantro, and sometimes tomato.

Traditional-style ceviche was marinated for about three hours. Modern-style ceviche, created by Peruvian chef Dario Matsufuji in the 1970s, usually has a very short marinating period.

With the appropriate fish, it can marinate in the time it takes to mix the ingredients, serve, and carry the ceviche to the table.

Typical sides for Ceviche include camote (creamy sweet potato), cancha (dry-roasted corn kernels), vegetables, lettuce, tamales, avocado or plantain.

The dish is served cold which presents risks of food poisoning so it&rsquos important that the dish is served fresh.

What type of fish is used to make Ceviche?

Peruvians use a range of fish to make Ceviche, the most common ones being:

Other seafood used to make ceviche can include shrimp, scallops, squid or octopus. Alternatively, there is a Fijian version of ceviche that is served in a coconut.

Causa Limeña

Causa limeña roughly translates as &lsquothe cause of Lima&rsquo and refers to the war between Peru and Chile over 100 years ago where it is said that the only ingredient left was potatoes, and so inventing dishes to utilize potatoes was &lsquofor the cause&rsquo!

Traditionally Causa limeña was prepared using the yellow potato along with lemon, boiled egg, lemon pepper and olives.

Over time there have been numerous additions and variations, most notably the avocado and lettuce salad but in more recent times fillings such as tuna, chicken and seafood have been added along with mayonnaise.


Pachamanca is made using a variety of meat ingredients, cooked in an earth oven

Pachamanca is actually more of a cooking method than a single dish, but it has huge cultural relevance in Peru. It is used across all regions but with many different variations.

The traditional Peruvian pachamanca dates back to pre-Hispanic times, during the Inca Empire but has since evolved and spread throughout Peru.

Pachamanca means &ldquoearth oven&rdquo and is a baking technique using hot stones to cook a range of marinated meats such as cuy, chicken, lamb, mutton, pork and alpaca.

You then add in a range of vegetables such as potatoes, cassava, yuca, sweet potato, lima beans, corn, tamale, humitas&hellip the list is endless!

Making and using a pachamanca:

The traditional Peruvian Pachamanca is made by placing hot rocks into a fire in order to heat them, and then putting them into a hole in the ground in order the create an &ldquoearth oven&rdquo.

Meat is then covered in herbs and spices, and then sometimes wrapped in leaves or just placed directly onto the hot stones. Often layering on stones between the meat to disperse the heat for better cooking.

A variety of vegetables are also included, such as potatoes, corn, cassava, lima beans and, of course, chili&rsquos. Potatoes usually go towards the bottom whereas lighter vegetables go towards the top, or are placed on top of the hot stones.

The fire is then covered with grass, leaves and earth, and covered for a period of 2 &ndash 4 hours whilst it cooks. After several hours the food will have finished cooking and the Pachamanca is ready to be opened up.

The result is a deliciously smoky flavour with a rich array of tastes to sample, with all the ingredients flavouring one another.

Pachamanca is usually prepared for a large group of people, using a large quantity of food, sometimes even whole animals.

It is a popular dish for family gatherings or fiestas, and is hugely popular across all regions of Peru.

If you&rsquod like to really get into Pachamanca yourself, this is a fantastic recipe to follow.

Tacu Tacu

Tacu Tacu is a patty made up of leftover beans and rice

Tacu Tacu is a delicious, traditional Peruvian breakfast dish that was invented by slaves during Colonial times. Their goal was to make a hearty and filling meal using only leftovers.

Tacu Tacu is essentially a patty made up of mashed canary beans and rice, and also sometimes onions and spices, fried in a skillet until crispy.

It can be served as a meal on its own or with a fried egg, steak, salsa criolla, or even fried banana.

As with most Peruvian dishes, there are many variations of Tacu Tacu. Meat or spices are sometimes added depending on the availability and region of Peru.

Aji de Gallina

Aji de gallina is chicken in a creamy walnut sauce

Aji de gallina is a delicious spicy creamed chicken stew dish named after the aji amarillo chili peppers used in its preparation.

The dish has an interesting history, with its roots being traceable back to Roman and Arabic cuisine. Specifically a dish called Manjar Blanco which was to become Aji de Gallina once it was adopted and evolved by the Peruvians.

Cooking techniques used in Manjar Blanco were brought to Peru by French chefs who lost their jobs during the French Revolution. The wealthy families they worked for were killed or imprisoned leading them to Peru for opportunities.

The result is Aji de Gallina a stunning cultural infusion of European and Peruvian traditions and methods.

Aji de Gallina is chicken in a creamy sauce made from ground walnuts, onion, garlic, cumin and, of course, aji amarillo chili peppers, served with rice.

Pollo a la brasa

Pollo a la brasa is marinated chicken cooked on a grill, served with fries and an aji sauce

Pollo a la brasa is a Peruvian dish that is particularly popular in the USA and Australia. It consists of roasted, marinated chicken served with french fries and aji sauce.

The dish was originally eaten by the upper class Peruvians due to the cost and scarcity of chicken throughout Peru. However, today it is much cheaper and can be found in many restaurants throughout Peru, Colombia and Brazil.

An immeasurably simple dish, the chicken is marinated in soy sauce, garlic, lime juice, paprika, pepper and paprika for 8 hours before being cooked on a wood fire or coal grill.

A sauce is then made from either the yellow aji chili (aji amarillo) or the green aji chile (aji verde), which is placed on the side of the dish.


Tiradito is similar to ceviche in that the main ingredient is raw fish, however it is much more delicate and is served with a spicy sauce marinade made with tiger&rsquos milk.

Tiradito is another notable Peruvian dish because it is influenced by Japanese cuisine, and is a very similar dish to sashimi as the fish is very thinly sliced. It is then typically garnished with sweet potato, boiled corn and additional ingredients such as scallops.

Anticuchos (Beef Heart Skewers)

Anticuchos are beef heart skewers that are found all over Peru from street food stalls to typical family homes where it is eaten as a meal with delicious sides. Aji panca sauce is what makes the anticuchos so delicious, with a marinade so authentically Peruvian in taste!

The aji panca marinade creates earthy flavors and anticuchos is traditionally also served with a yellow pepper sauce made from scotch bonnet peppers. The end result is a tangy, spicy flavor that is absolutely adored throughout Peru.

Papas a la Huancaina

Papas a la Huancaina is a dish of sliced potatoes in a creamy, spicy cheese sauce. In order to make this dish so authentically Peruvian, of course, Aji panca is used along with fresh cheese, garlic, lime juice, milk and saltine crackers. The ingredients give Papas a la Huancaina its distinctive bright yellow sauce which is then served with salad and boiled eggs.

Peruvians often eat Papas a la Huancaina as a side dish to another main meal, such as anticuchos, or as an appetiser. It packs a bit of a spicy kick but it&rsquos a very warming, homely meal that is well-loved throughout Peru.

Rocoto Relleno

Rocoto Relleno are exquisite Peruvian stuffed spicy peppers, originating in Southern Peru but now widely enjoyed throughout the country. The aji red peppers are stuffed with a mixture of ground beef, onions, garlic and other spices. Queso fresco is added on top and the peppers are baked in a sauce of egg and milk.

The aji red peppers are of course chilli peppers meaning that this dish packs an incredibly spicy punch! However, the ingredients somewhat calm down the initial kick and, together, the flavors combine to create a stunningly delicious flavor that only could have come from Peru!

Peru Named South America’s Culinary Destination - Recipes

100 Delicious Traditional Recipes from Peru


Cook up the bold, unique flavors of Peru, a multicultural culinary destination. described by food critic Eric Asimov as one of the world's most important cuisines and a model of fusion cuisine.

The Big Peruvian Cookbook is a journey through the diverse gastronomy of the multicultural South American country, from its Andean peaks to its coastal towns and tropical jungles.

  • Traditional Ceviche (or &ldquoCebiche&rdquo)
  • Causa (Layered Mashed Potato)
  • Arroz Chaufa (Fish Stir-Fried Rice)
  • Papa a la Huancaína (Potatoes in Cheese Sauce)
  • Lomo Saltado (Stir-Fried Sliced Beef with French Fries)
  • Ají de Gallina (Creamy Chicken)
  • Anticuchos de Corazón (Grilled Heart Skewers)
  • And more!

Skyhorse, 9781510738416, 272pp.

Publication Date: February 5, 2019

About the Author

Morena Cuadra was born in El Salvador, raised in Nicaragua, and adopted by Peru. A trained chef and wine expert, she directs a culinary school in Lima and writes a Peruvian food blog called Peru Delights. She is the coauthor of Detox Juicing . Cuadra resides in Leesburg, Virginia.

Morena Escardó is a writer and a vegetarian home cook from Lima, Peru, with a fascination for holistic eating and turning any dish vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. Together with her mother, Morena Cuadra, she writes the Peruvian food blog Peru Delights. She is the coauthor of Detox Juicing . Escardó resides in New York City.

Peruvian cuisine

Peruvian cuisine reflects local practices and ingredients including influences mainly from the indigenous population, including the Inca, and cuisines brought by immigrants from Europe (Spanish cuisine, Italian cuisine, German cuisine) Asia (Japanese cuisine and Chinese cuisine) and Africa. Without the familiar ingredients from their home countries, immigrants modified their traditional cuisines by using ingredients available in Peru.

The four traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine are corn, potatoes and other tubers, Amaranthaceaes (quinoa, kañiwa and kiwicha), and legumes (beans and lupins). Staples brought by the Spanish include rice, wheat and meats (beef, pork and chicken).

Many traditional foods—such as quinoa, kiwicha, chili peppers, and several roots and tubers—have increased in popularity in recent decades, reflecting a revival of interest in native Peruvian foods and culinary techniques. Chef Gaston Acurio has become well known for raising awareness of local ingredients. The most important ingredient in all Peruvian cuisine is the potato, as Peru has the widest variety of potatoes in the world.

The US food critic Eric Asimov has described it as one of the world's most important cuisines and as an exemplar of fusion cuisine, due to its long multicultural history. [1]

Peru is considered an important center for the genetic diversity of the world's crops:

    , many varieties of potato are native to the Andes mountains. [2][3] Over 99% of all cultivated potatoes worldwide are descendants of a single subspecies, namely Solanum tuberosum. [4][5] This subspecies has developed into thousands of varieties that vary by size, shape, color, and other sensory characteristics. [5]
    ("Indian" rice), three varieties , a legume native to the Andes which is similar to the lupin bean , a potato-like tuber , a potato-like tuber , a potato-like tuber , a vegetable with a cucumber-like taste chile peppers, including ají amarillo and ají limón , rocoto chile , ají panca and ají mochero/limo —Peru has about 20 native fruits that are used in cooking or eaten fresh

The sweet potato is native to the Americas and was domesticated there at least 5,000 years ago. [6] The much lower molecular diversity found in Peru and Ecuador. Only two varieties of sweet potato are commonly available for sale in the markets, but there are more varieties around the country. One has dry orange flesh and light tan skin and tastes sweet. The other has purple skin, is white and brown inside, and is only moderately sweet. Occasionally another variety, characterized by small tubers and dark skin, is available. Peru has around more than 5000 varieties of potatoes, the biggest in the world. The two most common potatoes are a white-flesh type and a more expensive yellow-flesh type.

Among the fruits native to the Andes region in general (Peru, Bolivia) are lucuma, camu camu, prickly pear, cape gooseberry, cocona, pacay (technically a legume but used as a fruit), guanabana, dragon fruit, pepino, papaya, ciruela, mammee apple, banana passionfruit, cherimoya, granadilla, moriche palm fruit, and tamarillo. Yacon, although an underground tuber, is also used as a fruit. Usually, none of the other native fruits are commercially available.

From Peru, the Spanish brought back to Europe several foods that would become staples for many peoples around the world.

  • Potatoes: Potatoes were introduced to Europe from the Americas. They were considered livestock feed in Europe until French chemist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier began serving dishes made from the tubers at his lavish banquets. His guests were immediately convinced that potatoes were fit for human consumption. The varieties used in Europe and most of the world, however, derive from a subspecies indigenous to Peruvian andes, namely Solanum tuberosum.
  • Beans: Several varieties of the common bean are native to Latin America including the lima bean.

The varieties of chili peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and maize that the Spanish brought back to Europe, however, were native to Peru:

  • Peppers: Chili peppers are native to America. The varieties most commonly used around the world, however, derive from Mexico and Central America. Sweet Peppers are native to Mexico and Central America. Peruvian Ají peppers are virtually unknown outside of the Andean region of South America.
  • Maize: Maize ("Indian" corn), is native to Mesoamerica and Peru the varieties used in Europe and most of the world are from Central America. The corn grown in Peru is sweet and has large kernels. However, it is not widely consumed outside of Peru.
  • Tomatoes: The tomato is native to Peru. This is proven by the great number of varieties available in that region. In contrast, Mesoamerica only has two varieties that are currently available commercially, namely the Common Globe and Plum Tomato.

Many foods from Spain are now considered Peruvian staples, including wheat, barley, oats, rice, lentils, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), broad beans, garlic, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, onions, cucumbers, carrots, celery, lettuce, eggplant, wine, vinegar, olives, beef, pork, chicken, numerous spices (including coriander, cumin, parsley, cilantro (green coriander), laurel, mint, thyme, marjoram, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise (fennel), black pepper and oregano), bananas, quince, apples, oranges, limes, apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, melons, figs, pomegranates, honey, white sugar, almonds, walnuts, cheese, hen eggs, cow's milk, etc. Many food plants popular in Europe, however, were imported to Peru.

During the colonial period, and continuing up until the time of the Second World War, Peruvian cuisine focused on Spanish models and virtually ignored anything that could be regarded as native or Peruvian. Traditional food plants, which the indigenous people continued to eat, were regarded as "peasant food" to be avoided. These colonial attitudes took a long time to fade. Since the 1970s, there has been an effort to bring these native food plants out of obscurity.

Some plants cultivated by ancient societies of Peru have been rediscovered by modern Peruvians, and are carefully studied by scientists. Due to the characteristics of its land and climate and the nutritional quality of its products, some Peruvian plants may play a vital role in future nutrition. Examples include quinoa (an excellent source of essential amino acids) and kañiwa, which look and cook like cereals but are pseudocereals. Nutritionists are also studying root vegetables, such as maca, and cereals like kiwicha.

Since 1985, NASA has used some of these foods—quinoa, kiwicha and maca—for astronaut meals. Andean ingredients like tubers and quinoa (kinwa in the indigenous language Quechua) have also been promoted by members of Peru’s Ministry of Culture and received international endorsements from celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and NASA as a new type of superfood. While Peruvian state actors and celebrity chefs argue that these efforts have created economic opportunity for rural farmers and built international cultural awareness, the commercialization of Andean ingredients has decreased crop biodiversity on indigenous lands. Heightened global demand has caused prices to increase so that these ingredients are becoming less accessible to the native Peruvians. [7]

For many of Peru's inhabitants, these food stocks allow for adequate nutrition, even though living standards are poor. Abandoning many of these staples during the Spanish domination and republican eras lowered nutritional levels.

Peruvian cuisine is often made spicy with ají pepper, a basic ingredient. Peruvian chili peppers are not spicy but serve to give taste and color to dishes. Rice often accompanies dishes in Peruvian cuisine, and the regional sources of foods and traditions give rise to countless varieties of preparation and dishes.

Peru is a country that holds not just a variety of ethnic mixes since times ranging from the Inca Empire, the Viceroyalty and the Republic, but also a climatic variety of 28 [8] individual climates. The mixing of cultures and the variety of climates differ from city to city so geography, climate, culture and ethnic mix determine the variety of local cuisine.

Coastal areas Edit

The Pacific Ocean is the principal source of aquatic resources for Peru. Peru is one of the world's top two producers and exporters of unusually high-protein fishmeal for use in livestock/aquaculture feed. Its richness in fish and other aquatic life is enormous, and many oceanic plant and animal species can only be found in Peru. As important as the Pacific is to Peru's biodiversity, freshwater biomes such as the Amazon River and Lake Titicaca also play a large role in the ecological make-up of the country.

Every coastal region, being distinct in flora and fauna populations, adapts its cuisine in accordance to the resources available in its waters.

Ceviche, a South American dish of marinated raw fish or seafood typically garnished with herbs and served as an appetizer, with many variations (pure, combination, or mixed with fish and shellfish), provides a good example of regional adaptation. Ceviche is found in almost all Peruvian restaurants on the coast, typically served with camote (sweet potato). Often spelled "cebiche" in Peru, it is the flagship dish of coastal cuisine, and one of the most popular dishes among Peruvians. It consists of Andean chili peppers, onions and acidic aromatic lime, a variety brought by the Spaniards. A spicy dish, it consists generally of bite-size pieces of white fish (such as corvina or white sea bass), marinated raw in lime juice mixed with chilis. Ceviche is served with raw onions, boiled sweet potatoes (camote), toasted corn (cancha).

Many Peruvians believe that ceviche is an aphrodisiac and hangover cure, the latter possibly due to the fact that it is traditionally consumed with beer. Unlike ceviche from Mexico and Ecuador, in Peru it does not have tomatoes. Also popular is Leche de tigre (tiger's milk), which is the Peruvian colloquial name for the juice produced from the ingredients of ceviche. It has a light spicy flavor.

Chupe de camarones (shrimp cioppino) is one of the most popular dishes of Peruvian coastal cuisine. It is made from a thick freshwater shrimp (crayfish) stock soup, potatoes, milk and chili pepper. It is regularly found in Peruvian restaurants specializing in Arequipan cuisine.

A center of immigration and centers of the Spanish Viceroyalty, Lima and Trujillo have incorporated unique dishes brought from the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors and the subsequent waves of immigrants. Besides international immigration—a large portion of which happened in Lima—there has been, since the second half of the 20th century, a strong internal flow from rural areas to cities, in particular to Lima. This has strongly influenced Lima's cuisine with the incorporation of the immigrants' ingredients and techniques.

Creole cuisine is the most widespread in this cosmopolitan city. Lima hosts a wide variety of international cuisines, with Italian and Chinese (known locally as chifa, a Chinese-Peruvian fusion) being the most popular. Japanese food, especially sushi, is also very popular, and many chain restaurants from the United States have a significant presence as well. Offerings of Arabic, Thai, Mexican, French, English, Argentine, Brazilian, and Indian cuisine can also be found in multiple locations throughout the city of Lima.

The city's bakeries are quite popular with Peruvians. One may find Peruvians standing in line in almost every bakery waiting for freshly baked white bread from 6 to 9 am and from 4 to 6 pm. The majority of Peruvians tend to eat bread for breakfast along with coffee or tea. Almost all bread in Peru, with the exception of baguettes, is fortified with added fats, such as lard. Whole wheat bread is extremely hard to find in the major cities, but more common (and often cheaper) in rural towns. Many bakeries sell white bread sprinkled with bran for health conscious customers as whole wheat flour is extremely hard to find. However, even this bread is often heavily fortified with lard, shortening or butter. Authentic whole wheat bread is imported from Europe and sold at upscale grocery stores. A few coastal cities bakeries produce "bollos," which are loaves of bread baked in stone and wood-ovens from the Andes.

Anticuchos are brochettes made from beef heart marinated in a various Peruvian spices and grilled, often with a side of boiled potato or corn. They are commonly sold by street vendors, but one may find them in creole food restaurants.

Also frequently sold by street vendors are tamales: boiled corn with meat or cheese and wrapped in a banana leaf. They are similar to humitas, which consist of corn mixed with spices, sugar, onions, filled with pork and olives and finally wrapped in the leaves of corn husks. Tamales are a common breakfast food, often served with lime and "Salsa Criolla" which is a mixture of thinnly sliced raw red onion, ají peppers, cilantro and lime juice.

Another favorite food found in many restaurants is Papa a la huancaina (Huancayo-style potatoes), a dish consisting of sliced boiled potatoes, served on a bed of lettuce with a slightly spicy cheese sauce with olives. The dish is cheap to make and uses ingredients that are readily available in Peru, yet it has complex flavours and textures so is very popular with chefs in restaurants in Peru. This combination of being cheap to make, yet favored by chefs, has helped Papa a la Huancaina become popular across all classes of Peruvian society. [9] The name of the dish it is from Huancayo.

Tacu-tacu: Mixture of beans, rice and a fried egg, on top of breaded or pan-fried steak and an Salsa Criolla.

Papa rellena (stuffed potato): mashed potatoes stuffed with ground (minced) meat, eggs, olives and various spices and then deep fried.

Arroz tapado (covered rice): uses the same stuffing of papa rellena, but rather than used as a stuffing, it is accompanied by rice.

Pollo a la Brasa (Peruvian-flavored rotisserie or roaster chicken): is one of the most consumed foods in Peru. It is roasted chicken marinated in a marinade that includes various Peruvian ingredients, baked in hot ashes or on a spit-roast. The origins of the recipe for this dish date back to Lima, the capital of Peru, during the 1950s. Two Swiss citizens who were Peruvian residents, Roger Shuler and Franz Ulrich, invented and registered the patent (1950) for the machine to cook the chicken on the grill, a mechanical system of planetary rotation in that the chickens rotating on its axis and over a central axis, simultaneously. The dish comes with French fried potatoes, salad and various creams (Peruvian mayonnaise, ketchup, olive sauce, chimichurri and aji (chili) sauces of all kinds). There are many famous brands of "Pollo a la Brasa" restaurants in Peru and particularly in Lima, the most famous and popular being Hikari, Norky's, Roky's, Pardo's, and La Leña.

Sancochado is a hearty beef and vegetable broth that includes yuca (cassava) and potatoes.

A local staple is Lomo Saltado, also known as saltadito. Sliced beef (tenderloin or in Spanish "lomo") is stir-fried with, garlic, cumin powder, tomato and Spanish onion and fried-mixed with already fried French cut potatoes, coriander and parsley and accompanied with white rice. Salt and black pepper is also added to taste.

Lima has an abundance of Peruvian-style Chinese restaurants or "chifas" as they are known locally indeed, arroz chaufa or Chinese style rice is one of the frequently sampled dishes that has found its way into Peruvian cuisine.

Arroz con pollo, or rice with chicken, is enjoyed for its rich-flavored rice combined with chicken.

Chupe de pescado or fish cioppino is popular in Lima and along the coast.

Lima butter bean salad is a salad made with Lima butter beans (called pallares in Perú), cooked whole, cooled, and mixed with a mixture of onion, tomato, and green ají, marinated in lime juice, oil, salt, and vinegar. Lima butter beans (pallares) have been part of the Peruvian cuisine for at least 6,000 years.

Butifarras [es ca] , also known as Jamon del Pais, is a sandwich with "Peruvian ham", sliced onions, sliced chili peppers, lime, salt, pepper, oil, in a white bread roll.

Causa, in its basic form, is a mashed yellow potato dumpling mixed with key lime, onion, chili and oil. Varieties can have avocado, chicken, tuna or even shellfish added to the mixture. Also, causa is popular in Lima, where it is distinguished by the name Causa Limeña. Causa is usually served cold with hard boiled eggs and olives.

Carapulcra is an appetizing stewed dish of pork and chicken, dried potatoes, red chilis, peanuts and cumin. The version from the Afro-Peruvian Ica region uses fresh potatoes.

Empanadas (meat turnovers) were introduced by the Spanish during the colonial period, and later modified, possibly due to lack of Spanish ingredients (olive oil, codfish, smoked paprika, etc.). In Peru, they are filled either with chicken, beef, or cheese. Olives, and sometimes hard boiled eggs and raisins gives them a unique taste.

Ají de gallina (chili chicken or Peruvian creamed chicken) consists of thin strips of chicken served with a creamy yellow and spicy sauce, made with ají amarillo (Peruvian yellow chilis), cheese, milk, bread. Occasionally walnuts are added on special occasions or at upscale restaurants due to its prohibitive cost in Peru. Traditionally the meat is from non-laying hens, but today almost exclusively made from more tender chickens.

Escabeche criollo (pickled fish): "Escabeche" when the word is used alone normally refers to fish escabeche. Other varieties can use duck or chicken. The escabeche dishes rely in the cooking on the heavy use of vinegar and onions together with other spices and chili.

Cau cau is a meal consisting of mondongo or tripe stew and accompanied by rice. There are a number of versions of Cau-Cau, as it is a style of cooking a choice protein. Two noteworthy styles are the creole style simply called Tripe Cau-Cau, and the Italian-Peruvian style. Creole style is made with strips of previously cooked tripe, seasoned with a mixture of sauteed onions, garlic, yellow aji, a pinch of turmeric, salt and pepper and cubes of boiled potatoes. The mixture is cooked together to blend the flavors and acquire consistency. It is then sprinkled with mint. Some add vinegar for added flavor before serving. The other common version is the Italian-Peruvian style. It consists of strips of precooked tripe sauteed with red onions, peeled tomatoes, tomato paste and dried mushrooms, usually Porcini. After the flavors combine, it is seasoned with parsley and mixed with fried potato just prior to serving. Some chefs add a few tablespoons of wine or pisco following the sauteeing.

Chicharrones is salted pork deep-fried in its own fat. There are at least two kinds of chicharrones: pork skins, a country style ribs that are first boiled, then rendered in their own fat until they brown into chicharrones. Other types of chicharrones including deep fried squid, and other seafoods. They can be served at any time of day, including breakfast.

One of the most popular dishes on the coast is called Lomo Saltado. It is a steak dish which is fried in a wok along with peppers, tomato, garlic, onions, coriander and soy sauce. It is accompanied by french fries and rice. This dish dates back to the 19th century and is a clear exponent of Chinese-Cantonese influence on local cuisine. It is a relatively recent dish because cow meat used to be very expensive. It was not until beef was mass-produced that it became widely available and used in local cuisine.

The cuisine of the northern coast offers a difference in style from the central and southern varieties. This is not only due to the coastal native Indian influence (less Andean), the Spanish influence, and the African but also to the warmer coastal seas, hotter climate and immense geographical latitude variety.

The widely different climates between Tumbes, Piura, Lambayeque, La Libertad, Cajamarca and San Martin contributes to the variety of dishes in these areas.

Seco de Cabrito (goat stew, often substituted by lamb, chicken, or beef) is made in a pot after marinating in chicha de jora (corn beer) and spices including cilantro and garlic. This dish is most popular in the northern coast especially in Cajamarca and Lambayeque.

Seco de Chavelo (typically from Catacaos - Piura) is a type of seco that is made of cecina stewed and dried meat that has been clotted and dried along with bananas, yuca, aji panca (Capsicum chinense) and Clarito (from Chicha de Jora the Piurano style).

Cebiche de Conchas Negras (ceviche with black shells) is a dish of Piura and Tumbes is also popular along the southern coast of Ecuador due to Peruvian influence. In this version of ceviche, the seafood used in the dish should be black clams accompanied by toasted corn.

Andes Edit

In the valleys and plains of the Andes, the diet is still a traditional one based on corn (maíz), potatoes, and an assortment of tubers. Meat comes from indigenous animals like alpacas and guinea pigs, but also from imported livestock like sheep, cattle and swine.

As with many rural cultures, most of the more elaborate dishes were reserved for festivities, while daily meals were simple affairs. Nowadays, festive dishes are consumed every day by urban dwellers, while rural diets tend to be light on meat and heavy on lahua gruel.

The pachamanca is a distinctive Peruvian dish. Cooked all over the Andean region of Peru, it is made from a variety of meats (including pork and beef), herbs and a variety of vegetables that are slowly cooked underground on a bed of heated stones. Because of its tedious preparation it is normally only made for celebrations or festivals in the Andes, though recent years have seen the appearance of many "campestre" restaurants in rural areas outside Lima, such as in Cieneguilla. [10]

Andean cooking's main freshwater fish is the trout, raised in fisheries in the region.

Cuy chactado: A dish more popular in the highlands is this meal of fried guinea pig. Often the indigenous women of the Peruvian Andes will raise the guinea pigs in their huts. Besides the use of guinea pigs as separate meals, they are often cooked in a Pachamanca with other meats and vegetables.

Olluquito con charqui is another traditional Andean dish. Olluco is a yellowish tuber (Ullucus tuberosus) domesticated by pre-Inca populations, and is visually similar to colorful small Andean potatoes, but with a distinct crunchy texture when cooked. Charqui is the technique employed in the Andean highlands to cure meat by salting, then dehydration (the word "jerky" in English is derived from this Andean (Quechuan) word). The dish is a stew of finely diced ollucos with charqui pieces (traditionally alpaca, or less frequently llama meat, though today it is also very commonly made from sheep), served with white rice.

Rocoto relleno: Arequipa dish made from stuffed rocoto chilis. Rocotos are one of the very hot (spicy) chilis of Peru. In this dish they are stuffed with spiced beef or pork, onions, olives, and egg white, then cooked in the oven with potatoes covered with cheese and milk.

Tocosh or Togosh is a traditional Quechua food prepared from fermented potato pulp.

Puka Pikanti: Ayacucho dish made from white potatoes, beets, yellow chili pepper, mint, and peanuts.

In Peruvian restaurants, steak is commonly served with rice rather than fries.

Amazon Edit

Naturally, Amazonian cuisine is made using the products local to the Amazon rainforest. Although many animal species are hunted for food in the biologically diverse jungle, standouts are the paiche (one of the world's largest freshwater fish), prepared in variety of dishes many other types of fish like gamitana, sabalo (Salminus hilarii, see Salminus), tucunare, boquichico, palometa, bagre, and many others including the piranha, that are prepared in variety of dishes such as "timbuche" (soup) or "patarashca" (grilled in vegetables) many types of turtles like the motelo (land turtle), and the charapa and taricaya (river turtles). Hunting turtles is prohibited in Peru, therefore turtle-based dishes are scarce and expensive and not sold à la carte in restaurants. Other animals include the majas, the sajino, the agouti and jungle mammals, which are called collectively "carne de monte". [11] The Black Caiman is also considered a delicacy but its hunt is forbidden under Peruvian law.

Among the fruits of Peru's jungle is the camu camu, which contains 40 times more vitamin C than the kiwifruit. Non-native fruits such as mango and pineapple and star apple are also in abundance, as well as other jungle fruits like, mammee apple, cherimoya, guanabana, taperiva, copoazu, dry fruits like the aguaje and the hungurahui.

Juane is rice seasoned with turmeric, and chicken wrapped with bijao leaves.

Chapo is a beverage made with sweet plantain.

Chalona or Charqui is a cured dried meat originally obtained from alpaca. It is also eaten in Bolivia, and was eaten by the Indians in the coast and highlands of Peru before the arrival of the Spanish. Today lamb is often substituted for alpaca meat. It is used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes of the Puno region, Cusco, and Arequipa. It is prepared using recently cured lamb, in which furrows are made with a knife so the salt can penetrate. Salt penetration is important, because it determines how long the cured meat lasts. The meat is left to dry in the sun and cold nights for almost one month.

Chairo: A traditional soup of the Puno and Arequipa regions. It origins have been traced to the Collan Indians who live in the Andes of Bolivia and southern Peru. The soup consists of black chuño, aji panca (red chili pepper), sweet potatoes, sheep tripe and chalona.

Ocopa: A dish with some similarities to Papas a la Huancaina. It consists of boiled and sliced yellow potatoes covered with a sauce of made of aji (chili pepper), the Peruvian herb Tagetes minuta, (called huacatay the herb gives it a vivid green color), ground peanuts, and fresh or white cheese, with sides of lettuce, boiled eggs and olives. At expensive restaurants walnuts are often added, but this is seldom done in Peruvian homes due to the prohibitive cost of walnuts in Peru. The name ocopa is also used to refer to the hot sauce by itself. [12] [13]

Copús is one of the best known dishes of Piura. Its ingredients are ripe fried bananas, camotes (sweet potatoes), and seasoned hen, turkey, goat, and mutton. The meat is cooked in a furnace under the ground this method is different from using a pachamanca since the furnace is covered with blankets and clay.

Yuca chupe or cassava soup is one of the variations in which the Peruvians enjoy cassava.

Currently, ostrich meat is being raised on farms in Arequipa, although its consumption is not widespread and limited to urban areas.

Sangrecita: A dish of cooked chicken blood seasoned with garlic, onion, chilli and herbs and commonly served with potatoes, sweet potatoes or cassava.

Crema de tarwi (tarwi soup): Tarwi is a vegetable native to the mountains of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. In addition to its use in soup, tarwi is used in much of Peruvian cuisine, including sancochado. Fresh tarwi can be used in stews, purees, sauces, desserts and in a variation of cebiche. In some areas, locals call it chocho. Its cultivation has recently expanded to all the countries of the Andean region. In Peru, it is principally grown in the areas of Cajamarca, Ancash, the Mantaro Valley, Ayacucho, Cusco, and Puno.

Tarwi can also be found in beverages (such as papaya juice with tarwi flour). Tarwi has been shown to have a higher vegetable protein content than soy. In pre-Incan and Incan times, it was an important part of the mostly vegetarian diet of the region. It was consumed with small quantities of meat and dried fish, providing an abundant source of protein for the population. Tarwi seeds have been found in Nazca tombs and in representations of Tiahuanaco ceramics.

Chifa (from the Mandarin words 吃饭 "chi1 fan4", meaning "to eat rice") is the Peruvian term for Peruvian–Chinese food (or for a Peruvian-Chinese fusion restaurant). Because many Chinese ingredients are hard to find in Peru, the Chinese modified their cuisine and incorporated many Peruvian elements (mainly Spanish, native and African) into their cuisine. Even today, it is difficult to find authentic Chinese cuisine in Peru. This is mainly due to popularity of the hybridization of Chinese food, which is commonly called "Chifa," and a lack of many Chinese ingredients.

Alfajores: a dessert found in virtually all of Spain's former colonies. It is derived from the versions popular in Spain during the colonial period. The original Spanish recipes, however, have been modified because the original ingredients are expensive in Peru (almonds, honey) or even unobtainable (hazelnuts, lemon rind, coriander seed, etc.). The basic recipe uses a base mix of flour, margarine, and powdered sugar, which is oven-baked. Alfajores consist of two or more layers of this baked pastry, and is usually filled with manjar blanco (a caramel-colored, sweet, creamy filling made with milk and sugar)

Turrones (or nougat) is another originally Spanish dessert. The original Spanish recipe, which contained ingredients that were rare or expensive in Peru (such as almonds, rose water, orange blossom water, honey) were modified in a variety of ways. One common variety found in Lima is Turrón de Doña Pepa, an anise and honey nougat that is traditionally prepared for the Señor de los Milagros (or Lord of Miracles) religious procession, during October.

Almost exclusive to the Andes region is the fruit known as lúcuma. Lúcuma juice, ice cream, and corresponding lúcuma shakes are very popular throughout Peru. Lúcuma ice cream can normally only be found in large US cities (typically in Peruvian restaurants). One popular brand of ice cream in Peru is D'Onofrio, which is owned by Nestlé.

Arroz con leche (rice pudding): Another dessert originally from Spain that can be found in various varieties throughout Latin America. Arroz con leche is one of the more common desserts found in homes and restaurants of modern-day Peru. It consists primarily of cooked rice, cinnamon/nutmeg, raisins, and milk. Rice pudding never has lemon rind as is traditional in the Spanish version. Arroz con leche is usually eaten with Peruvian Mazamorra (jelly-like clove-flavored dessert). [ citation needed ]

Helados (ice cream): The most common ice cream flavors found in Peru are lucuma, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. Some more exotic flavors such as camu camu, guaraná and prickly pear can occasionally be found. For other commonly available flavors, however, one needs to purchase imported ice-cream as many of the ingredients are not available in Peru. Peru is one of few countries in the world where the third most popular ice-cream (after vanilla and chocolate) is not strawberry, it is in fact the "nutty" flavored, orange colored lúcuma, which is an exotic fruit grown in quantity only in Peru, and only in recent years being exported in very limited quantities as an exotic flavor (for ice cream and savory sauces) to the US, and available in Europe essentially in food shows.

Mazamorra morada: Is a jelly-like clove-flavored dessert. It takes on the color of one of its main ingredients: purple maize. A variety of purple corn (maíz morado) that only grows in Peru adds color to the water it's boiled in, along with cinnamon cloves. When the water cools, chopped fruit, key lime and sugar are added. The mixture is served as a beverage called "chicha morada".

Picarones: a sweet, ring-shaped fritter with a pumpkin base often served with a molasses syrup. Picarones were created during the colonial period to replace the Spanish dessert Buñuelos, as buñuelos were too expensive to make (They had an egg custard filling) and some ingredients were unavailable (lemon rinds). Peruvian Picarones are made of squash or pumpkin dough and sweetened with chancaca, raw cane sugar melted into a syrup.

Tejas: another modified Spanish dessert. The original Spanish version contained ingredients that were prohibitively expensive in Peru, such as almonds. The Peruvian version of this candy is filled with manjar blanco and coated with a fondant-like shell. Some are also made with a chocolate shell (chocoteja).

King Kong: is made of cookies (made from flour, butter, eggs and milk), filled with milk candy, some pineapple sweet and in some cases peanuts, with cookies within its layers. It is sold in one-half and one kilogram sizes. It is known as part of the culture of Lambayeque Region.

Suspiro a la Limeña: Is another Spanish-influenced dessert that uses dulce de leche, which derives from the Spanish Blancmange. The bottom layer is made of dulce de leche enriched with egg yolks. The top layer consists of meringue made with port wine. This classic criollo dessert is said to have been named by the famous Peruvian poet and author José Gálvez whose wife doña Amparo Ayarez was famous for her cooking. When asked what inspired the name, he reportedly replied, "Because it is soft and sweet, like the sigh of a woman." In this case, it would be a woman from Lima, a Limeña.

Panetón: is a type of sweet bread with dried fruit. It is usually served for breakfast around Christmas with a cup of hot chocolate. They used to come in big boxes only with huge panetóns inside but now they also sell personal portions. Chocotón is variety of panetón that replaces the fruit with chocolate bits. The bread is very light and sweet. Because Christmas is the hottest time of year, people often replace the hot chocolate with coffee or a drink that's served cold.

Essential Peruvian Food: 10 Must-Eat Dishes to Seek Out

My first encounter with comida Peruana was over 20 years ago, thanks to my wife's Peruvian family. Their cooking was a study in juxtaposition: hot and cold, acidic and starchy, robust and delicate. That's because Peruvian food is all about spices and big flavors, some clean and crisp, others deep and heavy. Every sip of a pisco sour tamed the citrus and chile assault of a ceviche, the fish so fresh it almost crunched between my teeth.

When most of us think of Peru, we think of the ancient ruins and high mountain vistas. Those thoughts may be accompanied by a distant pan flute whistling over the Andes, and if we've been primed on the food, the conversation usually starts with the country's mind boggling variety of potatoes.

But culinarily speaking, Peru is the Hope Diamond of Latin America, home to dishes and flavors you won't find anywhere else. While this is hardly a secret—there are more Peruvian restaurants outside Peru than ever before—it's one we don't give enough credit. Few places on earth offer such a variety of indigenous ingredients, let alone a jumble of flavors and techniques from Europe, Africa, and East Asia. Rather than remain culturally segregated, these foreign additions have blended seamlessly with ancient Peruvian cuisine into something utterly unique.

A Peruvian Primer

Peruvian cuisine has only recently exploded onto the international culinary stage, but Peruvians have always been crazy about their nation's culinary heritage, and they steadfastly cling to the traditional, multi-culti flavors of home —pit-roasted feasts and all, even in the face of modern gastronomic innovation. A range of climates, from high altitude to low, offer an impressive diversity of produce. Yes, that means potatoes—over 3800 kinds—but also a variety of corn and other grains, to say nothing of the country's native aji chilies that are often puréed into sauces.

So much of what is now traditional Peruvian cooking was inspired by cultures oceans away. These foreign influences date back to the Spanish conquest of Incan king Atahualpa in the 1500s. Colonists brought European stews, sauces, and baked casseroles. Later, in the 19th century, immigrant workers from Guangdong Province brought their woks and stir fries, and Peruvians today love to eat chifa, a fusion of local ingredients cooked with Chinese recipes and technique. It's Chinese food with Peruvian influences—or maybe the other way around.

Like food everywhere today, there is a new style of Peruvian cuisine emerging—so-called nueva comida—forged by Lima's leading chefs like Gaston Acurio and Pedro Miguel Schiaffino. "It's very ingredient-driven," explains New York chef Eric Ramirez of the soon-to-open Llama Inn and formerly of Raymi Peruvian Kitchen and Pisco Bar. "With young chefs digging deep to find more exotic ingredients, the possibilities are endless." So the evolution of the nation's food continues, into territories of modernist cooking that's simultaneously old and new.

But for now, here's a quick tour of just some of the classic edible jewels Peru has to offer. Consider it the checklist for your next trip.


Peru's national dish, and an immediate obsession for nearly all who try it. Though other countries may claim their own variations with shrimp, octopus, scallops, tomatoes, and even tostada chips, Peru started this cold-"cooked" fish craze with only five simple ingredients: sea bass (corvina) marinated for just minutes in lime juice, onion, salt and, of course, hot chiles (aji). The tenderness of super-fresh fish is heightened by crisp onion, and sides of starchy boiled corn (choclo) and creamy sweet potato (camote) to balance out the texture of the dish. Dry-roasted corn kernels (cancha) sprinkled around add a pleasing crunch.

The leftover marinade—known as leche de tigre (tiger's milk)—is a briny, fiery elixir often tossed back from a shot glass or spiked with Pisco, either at the table or the next morning as hair of the dog. (In the latter case it's then referred to as leche de pantera, or panther's milk). Tiradito is a local variation of classic ceviche with a Japanese sushi-style twist of slicing the fish into thin strips, then adding puréed aji amarillo, soy sauce, and mirin to the marinade.

Lomo Saltado (Stir Fried Beef)

Almost as popular as ceviche, this chifa dish represents a fusion of Chinese stir frying and classic Peruvian ingredients. Juicy strips of soy-marinated beef (or alpaca), onions, tomatoes, aji chilies, and other spices are stir-fried until the beef is just cooked and the tomatoes and onions start to form a robust, meaty gravy. It's then served with two starches, a happy mix of East and West: a mound of rice and french fries (often tossed with the meat). The crowd-pleasing dish is found nearly everywhere across Peru, and is equally popular in Peruvian restaurants abroad.

Aji de Gallina (Creamy Chicken)

Shredded chicken bathes in a thick sauce made with cream, ground walnuts, cheese, and aji amarillo. The sauce is mild but piquent, the aji's fruity, moderately hot bite softened by the nutty, creamy sauce to a comfortable warmth. The dish reflects Peru's love of sauces thickened with chilies, cheese, cream, or even bread, drenched over and often cooked with meats and vegetables. Here the sauce is mixed with the poultry and served over rice with boiled potatoes and black olives, making for a rich, bright yellow chowder that glistens on the plates of restaurants and households throughout Peru.

Papas a la Huancaina (Potatoes in Spicy Cheese Sauce)

In another instance of "meat or starch covered in creamy sauce," sliced yellow potatoes are drenched in a purée of queso fresco, aji amarillo, garlic, evaporated milk, lime juice and—you guessed it—saltine crackers. It's not a looker: a yellow sauce over yellow potatoes topped with yellow-yolked hard boiled eggs. But don't be deceived this homely sauce packs a complex, slow-building burn, at once brightened by the queso fresco, lime, and salty cracker, and tamed by the earthy potato and cooling egg.

Usually served as a side dish to a meal, it's also a common appetiser, with tiny round purple potatoes boiled whole, enveloped by sauce and garnished with olives, eggs, and, yes, more crackers. Originating in the mountainous city of Huancayo, it's now an almost everyday staple throughout Peru.

Cuy (Guinea Pig)

One of the Andean region's most popular sources of meat (the other being alpaca), this guinea-pig-as-food strikes fear in the hearts of Westerners who think of it more as a pet than a meal. But consider tender, smoky dark meat (almost like poultry!) beneath a glistening golden veneer of shatteringly crisp skin, and you can begin to grasp the appeal. Or think of it as a single-serving suckling pig.

The traditional recipe calls for stuffing the whole animal with local herbs, then roasting it over an open wood fire and serving it with potatoes. When served this way it tastes best with a dip of aji sauce and eaten by hand like fried chicken. But more refined restaurant-ready recipes, which may involve deep-frying or braising, are now regularly enjoyed from Cusco all the way to Lima.

Causa (Potato Casserole)

This ubiquitous Quechan dish has taken on countless European-style variations, often served as a cake roll, terrine, casserole, or in colorful individual servings. Whatever the presentation, it starts with meaty mashed yellow Peruvian potatoes blended with lime, oil and spicy aji amarillo sauce. Shredded tuna, salmon, or chicken are mixed with mayo, followed by layers of avocado, hardboiled eggs, and olives. That surface is topped again with more potato mix, and so on, making as many lasagna-like layers as one dares. This bright, barely-spicy dish is served cold as a salad course or side dish.

Rocoto Relleno (Stuffed Spicy Peppers)

Red aji rocoto chilies are stuffed with a cooked mix of ground beef, onions, garlic, olives, raisins, herbs, and spices, then topped with queso fresco and baked in an egg-and-milk sauce. Fair warning: despite its scarlet good looks, this dish is not the stuffed bell pepper you're used to—the rocoto is a little larger than a plum with a bright, fruity, tropical berry essence and almost twice the heat of an aji amarillo (or in gringo terms, about ten times hotter than an average jalapeño). So that first bite will wake you up. But the chili's initial burn is quickly tempered by the sweet and savory filling inside, and the melted queso fresco and eggy cream sauce in which it all cooks.

The rocoto chili originated in the southern region of Arequipa, and while it's now ubiquitous throughout the country, it's still hard to find beyond Peru's borders, which makes rocoto relleno a dish that homesick Peruvians pine for when abroad.

Anticuchos de Corazón (Grilled Heart)

Don't let "heart" put you off. The heart is a muscle, after all, leaner than filet mignon, bolder in flavor than a ribeye, and delicious when licked by open flames. Typically cut into one-to-two-inch cubes, the crimson heart (alpaca or beef) is marinated in vinegar, cumin, ají, and garlic and grilled over charcoal to a medium rare with slightly singed edges.

Those cubes are often served on skewers with sliced onion or potato, and drizzled with lime, which makes them popular appetizers and even more popular street food throughout the country. Today, cooks make anticuchos out of any cut of beef, and even chicken, but nothing beats the original cardiovascular version.

Arroz con Pato (Rice With Duck)

This seemingly simple Spanish Criollo recipe is a signature dish in Peru. Rice is cooked in cilantro paste, herbs, and dark beer, giving a deep, earthy flavor to the vegetal grain. A roasted thigh and leg or—if lucky—crisp-seared duck confit is added on top of a mound of the green rice. The dish is so popular, it's found on nearly every Peruvian family table as well as at the finest restaurants in Lima, and like much of Peruvian cooking, it's been adapted into countless variations of rice mixture, texture and duck parts—and even with chicken or other poultry.

Pollo a la Brasa (Roasted Chicken)

Perhaps the most well-known Peruvian food in the US due to the many take-out Peruvian chicken rotisserie joints around (see our roundup of DC's best). A whole chicken is marinated in a powerful combination of garlic, herbs, and spices before roasting on a spit, giving the bronzed, crispy skin an addictively exotic and earthy taste. Perhaps even more beloved than the chicken itself is the green huacatay (Peruvian black mint) sauce served next to it: every chicken comes with it, though the recipe often varies and is a closely-guarded secret. For some it's a creamy melange of the mint with cilantro, garlic and chili in a mayo base that Peruvians (and everyone else) goes crazy for. If you can't make it to Peru, this is definitely a classic worth making on your own.

History of the Aji Chili Pepper

Aji Chili Peppers have an interesting history, represented in the way that the cuisine that has most taken to this particular pepper. It is most well loved in Peru, where the pepper shows up in a variety of dishes and is often served at the table as a condiment aside red onion and garlic.

The word &ldquoají&rdquo is actually a word used in the Caribbean to refer to this particular plant, but the name became so widespread that this is what it is known as in most of the world. &ldquoAjí amarillo&rdquo literally translates to &ldquoyellow chili&rdquo in Spanish, which is the color that this pepper turns while cooked.

The mature pods of an ají pepper are actually bright orange.

Papa Rellena

Today, we are headed to Peru for the delicious recipe of papa rellena !

From the Andes to heavenly beaches, the cuisine of the country is considered one of the most varied and richest in the world and it’s why some people say that Peruvian cuisine is the El Dorado of Latin America. Peru was also named “best gastronomic destination by the The World Travel Awards in 2015 and for the fourth consecutive year! Lima, the capital, is considered the gastronomic capital of South America.

The richness and diversity of its traditional dishes that a few young creative chefs have been able to revisit have finally placed Peruvian cuisine on the map. We can’t talk about Peruvian cuisine without mentioning Gastón Acurio, the great chef whom Morena talked about. He is also an award winning author who helped make Peruvian cuisine known throughout South America initially and now all over the world thanks to his many restaurants.

The origins of Peruvian cuisine lie in the migrations that took place in the past 500 years: Spanish, Japanese, Chinese or African. With 491 traditional dishes, this cuisine is also #1 in the world when it comes to variety! Of those 491, more than a hundred are traditional soups.

Related Posts:

Did you know that Peru is considered “granary of the world” due to its great biodiversity? Indeed, the country which is divided into three distinct climatic zones, is very rich thanks to 3 cooking styles with different influences:

The cuisine of the Andes, where potatoes, cereals and meat are the main ingredients.

The cuisine of the coast, which is rich in fish and seafood with a Chinese touch.

And finally, the lesser known but no less interesting cuisine of the jungle, which uses some of the most amazing and unique ingredients. Fried ants? Grilled alligator? A turtle or monkey stew? Uh … How can I say it? I will leave those recipes to Mike!

Today, I am taking you to the Andes with one of the greatest classic ingredients of this region: potato!

It is rather difficult to pick the best and most traditional Peruvian dishes. There is however one recipe that we couldn’t have skipped: papa rellena.

Papa rellena is a stuffed potato fritter. The potatoes are first mashed and then stuffed with deliciousness, like ground beef, onions, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, raisins and black olives, before being fried.

Potato or papa for our Peruvian friends, is a plant. Yes, a plant that is highly consumed in Peru.

It was born in the Andes at the border between Bolivia and Peru, where it grew wild. The first traces of potato culture date back 7000 years ago. At the time, there were already nearly 200 wild species of potatoes, but farmers have gradually improved those species.

Today, in the Andes, there are still 7 species and more than 5,000 varieties of all colors and shapes.

What is the origin of papa rellena?
The story goes that during the Pacific War, the armed conflict between Chile on one side, Peru and Bolivia on the other side, that lasted between 1879 and 1884, Peruvian soldiers were traveling for a long time on roads very far from cities, so Chilean soldiers would not know of their position and could not determine where the next attack would take place.

During these trips, the soldiers had to take their food in pouches because there were no bags and no way to refrigerate. Thus, with a lot of imagination, they had the idea to cook the meat (ground or chopped), then season it and make a kind of dough with blanched potatoes. They kept the meat inside and finally fried them immediately. They were then wrapped in a tissue as large as a handkerchief. When lunch time approached, they took them out of their little packages and ate them.

These stuffed potatoes are also famous in Chile, Cuba, Colombia, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

The preparation and presentation of papas rellenas vary from country to country. They are also consumed in US cities with a large population of Cubans such as Miami and Tampa. The Cuban version consists of potato balls seasoned and stuffed with picadillo, a minced meat preparation famous in Latin-America and Spain.

In Puerto Rico, where this dish is called relleno de papa, they are stuffed with cheese and ground beef. Papas are then covered with raw egg and rolled in corn flour before being fried.

I am a stickler when it comes to the right choice of potato. They are classified by family and not all potatoes are suitable for all recipes.

To make papas rellenas, the choice is crucial. You need to choose potatoes that are used for mashed potatoes, and preferably with a yellow flesh.

I prepared these papas for a dinner with Tunisian friends and we enjoyed them as an appetizer. You can also eat papas rellenas as a main course. They are most often served with salsa criolla on the side, as well as white rice. Salsa criolla consists of sliced red onion, sliced aji amarillo, and cilantro leaves with lime juice.

Of course, my friends compared my papas rellenas to the famous Tunisian banatages. Sorry, but I disagree ! No offense to the chauvinists or the lovers their Tunisian mom’s cooking, I found that papas rellenas were much tastier than their Tunisian cousins, which are prepared with very few ingredients. No hard feelings!

This recipe is validated by our Peruvian culinary expert Morena Cuadra, author of culinary blog Peru Delights.