The Best of Peruvian Cuisine: 9 Dishes You Need to Try in Peru
Peruvian cuisine is one of the most underrated spreads of food on the planet, usually featuring a range of fresh vegetables creating dishes that are healthy, delicious and photogenically colorful. This vibrant cuisine is only just starting to gain traction around the world, but come to Peru and you'll find incredible restaurants and mouth-watering street markets all around its lively cities.
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Peruvian food is the perfect example of a fusion cuisine, adapting various foreign techniques to create its own unique dishes that have since become a tradition. Lomo saltado is a great example of this, stemming from the large Chinese population in the country. Strips of sirloin beef are marinated in soy sauce and spices and stir-fried with onions, tomatoes and often french fries. That last addition might sound a little odd, but trust us it works to create this delicious, comforting dish which pairs perfectly with a side of fluffy white rice.
Aji De Gallina
This creamy, fiery stew is one of the most iconic dishes of Peru. Chicken is cooked in a sauce of spices and the country's native and unique-flavored aji amarillo pepper which gives it the distinctive yellow color along with a kick of spice and fruitiness. No cream is actually used but the sauce is thickened with breadcrumbs and nuts which gives it a delicious, creamy and comforting flavor to it. It's usually served with potatoes and rice and garnished with black olives.
Peruvian kebabs, anticuchos can be found grilled on street carts all over the country and makes for a delicious cheap snack. Usually skewers of beef heart, the meat is marinated in vinegar and spices before being cooked over an open flame.
This Peruvian dish has seen a surge of popularity lately because of its unique appearance, perfect for a killer Instagram photo. Causa is a layered dish using mashed potato and various different fillings, one of the most popular of which is a seafood mayonnaise, originating from the coastal capital of Lima. Another common filling or topping is avocado but you'll find all kinds of variations across the country as restaurants and chefs give it their own personal twist. If done well, it tastes as incredible as it looks, a burst of flavor in between two comforting slabs of mashed potato.
A seafood lover's holy grail, ceviche usually consists of raw seafood such as seabass or octopus which is then 'cooked' in lemon or lime juice and mixed with onions, fresh vegetables and herbs. As you might expect from such ingredients, the flavor is super fresh and is often a favorite of both locals and visitors to the country.
Papa a la Huancaina
Another of Peru's delicious comfort foods featuring the perfect combination of eggs, fresh cheese and potatoes. The creamy cheese sauce is given a kick from aji amarillo peppers that pairs wonderfully. Typically this dish is served as a starter but once you try the comforting flavor, you'll have to stop yourself from ordering more.
Alright we admit it might not be the most appetizing of dishes from this vibrant cuisine, but trying grilled guinea pig is a must when visiting Peru. While you might be imaging a poor, cute family pet, these small rodents are seen quite differently in South America, raised as livestock and eaten almost as commonly as chicken.
Often grilled over a barbecue or stuffed with herbs and roasted, cuy has a rich and fatty taste to it, a little similar to the meat from duck. If eating guinea pigs still seems horrifying to you, note that these furry creatures originated in South America and had been eaten for thousands of years till Spanish colonizers brought them back to Europe to keep as pets.
The quintessential Peruvian street dessert, these doughnut-shaped snacks are made with sweet potato and squash, deep fried and then covered with a sweet syrup. They originated from the Spanish buñuelos, a similar deep-fried sweet snack made from dough that was expensive to make with the same ingredients in Peru. Instead they used cheaper local ingredients such as sweet potato and squash, which quickly caught on, producing the popular sweet treat you'll find all around the country today.
Peppers are used throughout Peru to give dishes a kick of flavor and color, they're also stuffed and baked too, a dish which is popular in southern parts of the country. A number of ingredients can be used as a stuffing but the most common are boiled eggs and cheese along with a mix of beef, pork, onions and spices. If you can't really handle your heat, don't worry about the spice, the peppers are cooked in vinegar before stuffing, to take away the spiciness and bring out the sweeter flavors.
Peru is a foodie mecca still relatively unknown to most of the world. Apart from the delicious street food found all around the country, there's a well developed culinary scene for high-end Peruvian restaurants, especially in the capital of Lima.