By Briana Seftel
Peruvian cuisine is often considered the crème de la crème of Latin America. Its use of indigenous ingredients and complex flavors have mystified the world. If you’re traveling to Peru, you won’t want to miss trying these ten dishes and drinks.
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While both Chile and Peru claim the Pisco Sour as their own national drink, its Peru’s pisco that is known worldwide. Peru’s national drink is a frothy delight made with pisco liquor, lime juice, simple syrup and frothy egg white. While the production of pisco dates back to the 1700s, the cocktail is said to have been invented in the 1920s in a bar in Lima.
Aji de gallina
This creamy chicken stew gets its bright yellow hue from the spicy ají amarillo chile pepper, one of the key ingredients of Peruvian cuisine. Evaporated milk gives the stew its creaminess, while ground nuts give it a subtle nutty taste. The dish is served over rice and/or boiled potatoes.
Cuy (pronounced “kwee”) is one of Peru’s most famous dishes, but for adventurous eaters only. The Peruvian and Ecuadorian delicacy is fried or roasted guinea pig usually served whole and eaten with your hands. The taste can be described as a cross between chicken and rabbit. The indigenous animal has been a staple in Peru’s Andean diet for around 5,000 years – it even has its own national holiday in October.
Peruvians love ceviche so much that it has been declared as part of Peru's "national heritage" and even has a holiday declared in its honor. The classic dish is composed of chunks of raw fish marinated in freshly squeezed lime or orange juice, with sliced onion and chile. The dish is usually served with slices of cooked sweet potato and cancha (toasted corn). In some Peruvian cevicherias, a small glass of marinade called leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) is served alongside the ceviche.
Papas a la huancaina
This Peruvian appetizer of boiled yellow potatoes in a spicy, creamy sauce is the Peruvian version of American potato salad. Made with the same aji Amarillo pepper used in aji de gallina and queso fresco, the dish is served cold with black olives, white corn kernels and hardboiled egg. Potatoes are a cornerstone of the Peruvian diet, and for good reason: Peru boasts a whopping 3,000 varieties of potatoes!
Pollo a la brasa
Pollo a la brasa, or rotisserie chicken, is one of the most consumed dishes in the country. Traditionally seasoned with salt and cooked in charcoal, today the chicken is marinated in a mixture consisting of vinegar, dark beer or soy sauce, salt, pepper, chile, rosemary or cumin and paprika and then grilled in especially fabricated pollo a la brasa ovens.
Lomo saltado is a very popular and inexpensive stir fry of beef, tomatoes and onions and served with French fries or rice. The dish’s roots can be traced back to the Chinese immigration to Peru in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Lomo saltado is the most well-known Chifa dish, which is the hybridized Chinese-Peruvian cuisine.
Peru’s most popular street food is not for the faint of heart (pun intended). Anticuchos are grilled brochettes of beef heart marinated in vinegar and aji panca (a hot pepper). The dish originated in the Andes during the pre-Columbian era but was adapted during Spanish colonial times. While these snacks are eaten year round on street corners, in Peru they are especially popular in July during Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day).
Before quinoa was popularized as a health food staple in the United States, it was an ancient grain only found in the Andes in South America. The Incas, who held the crop to be sacred, referred to it as chisoya mama or "mother of all grains", and it was the Inca emperor who would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season using "golden implements."
This beverage is older than the Inca Empire! The sweet non-alcoholic drink with a deep purple color is made from purple corn and infused with pineapple, cinnamon and clove. Like potatoes, Peru has over 3,000 varieties of corn and is a staple of the diet.