Wow, I just got back from Peru! What a trip!
Before I even left for Peru, I stopped by my favorite brewery in Fort Collins: Equinox and had one pint before heading out of town. That afternoon there was a server who, when I told him of my trip to Peru, said to absolutely check out the different varieties of potatoes while I was there. When I inquired as to why, he informed me that potatoes are indigenous to that region and there used to be hundreds if not thousands of varieties grown in all parts of Peru. Before departing, he said to pick up a couple varieties, bring them back and he’d make an interesting trade — potatoes for beer! I chuckled, finished a delicious pint of their special alt beer and said I may take him up on his offer.
There are many common peruvian dishes, and as I would soon find out, almost always consisting of either fries or puréed potatoes — likely having to do with their vast amounts of potato sources based on what the server at Equinox had said about them in Peru .
One dish in particular that I truly loved and sought out a cookbook primarily for the recipe was Lomo Saltado(pictured below). If you eat beef, this is a delicious dish they prepare that consists of specially spiced beef, onions, tomatoes, peppers, fries and rice (fries, as I mentioned, are common with any meal no matter what you get — omelet? Have some fries with it!).
They seem to be very fond of rotisserie chicken and it tastes similar to what we find in the states. It was very common to see menus like the one below from Nazca with choices on a fourth, half, or full pollo (chicken) and a rack of rotisserie chicken in plain view of the entrance to entice onlookers.
And can’t forget street food! This was the most common, grilled steak, chicken or ham/sausages with a potato:
I was surprised to see some fresh tamales being served on the street… although I’m not sure it’s typical peruvian:
One thing to avoid until you’ve at least tried some typical Peruvian cuisine are the tourist trap restaurants in some cities. They’re very noticeable because they usually have everything from tacos and quesadillas to pizza, burgers and milkshakes. These are similar in quality to frozen meals found at your local supermarket and should be avoided if at all possible. There seemed to be a high frequency of these restaurants in tourist-heavy cities like Aquas Calientes so seek out places that say “Typical Food” (probably spelled wrong like the restaurant below and you’re sure to be happier with the quality of your meal).
The last thing I’d say to check out are authentic Italian-style pizzerias. Make sure to stick your head in and see if they make their pizzas in an authentic italian clay oven and only specialize in pizzas like the above restaurant we found in Arequipa and you’ll be transported to heaven on Earth as you take your first bite. Pizza lovers should definitely not miss out on one of these, and just be wary of certain pizzerias or restaurants simply including pizza on their menu, because some are tourist traps that are not using traditional methods of preparation.
And a list of typical Peruvian cuisine wouldn’t be complete without authentic Peruvian drinks, so here’s two popular drinks I encountered:
Cusquena Cerveza – A beer brewed in the high altitudes of Cuzco and their special beer for this year is a celebratory edition for the 100 year anniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu. To be honest, after having drank real craft beer in Fort Collins, beer elsewhere just doesn’t taste like real beer. It was nice having a cold brew in a new country, but I can’t say it was even close to being good. It tasted somewhere between Miller Lite and Heineken.
Pisco Sour – Pisco is a type of hard liquor they make from grapes. I was lucky enough to tour one of their wineries where they were also aging their pisco, and this drink was quite delicious. It tastes like a lime margarita.
And you can see how popular this was on the last night before the grueling 2000+ step hike up to Machu Picchu with everyone in our group from the trek!:
I have lots of pictures, videos, and panoramas of the different cities we visited while in Peru. Stay tuned to early next week when I plan on posting a series of posts about the epic 5-day, over 60 mile, and 2000+ climb up to Machu Picchu trek we did! It can all be done on budget too, so I’ll let you know how you can plan a short 1-week vacation and indulge in all the best sights, sounds and tastes of Peru I experienced.