The best part about going abroad is trying out all kinds of local delicacies and unique cuisine. And there is nothing like travelling to Peru and gorging on authentic South American food. Peruvian food has been influencing global cuisine for years, mostly because of the rich flavours and textures that they can introduce in a dish.
The history of Peruvian cuisine has been traced back to pre-Incas with dishes that include potatoes, maize, and spices. Later on, it was influenced by Asian and European flavours because of the Spanish conquest and a great migration period. For this reason, modern day Peruvian fare includes Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian tastes.
As a gourmand, a cuisine that offers a mix of traditional and eclectic varieties should not be missed. If you are not sure about where to begin, here are Peru’s most famous dishes you can start with.
Ceviche is probably the most popular Peruvian dish, it could probably be in the running to be their national dish. The word “Ceviche” came from “Quechua”, which means “fresh fish.” And it is actually prepared with raw fish that is marinated in citrus juice. The acid from the juice is what cooks the meat, and then it is finished off with spices like aji pepper and red onion. In coastal towns like Lima, they serve Ceviche with what is left of the citrus marinade and calls it Leche de Tigre or Tiger’s Milk. In the Andes, they serve it with choclo, an Andean corn which has large kernels.
If this were a film, the Causa is the supporting actor to the Ceviche’s leading role. There is much debate on its origin, but one of the popular stories was set during the Inca Civil War. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Peru, it was already in the midst of a succession war — this meant rationing food. Since potatoes were heavily cultivated in their lands, women had to make do with making only potato-based food to support “the cause” or “la causa.” Even during the pre-Inca age, potatoes have been central to Peruvian cuisine, so it would not be surprising if this story was actually its origin. The dish is basically mashed potatoes mixed lime, chili, oil, and onions. It also includes avocados, chicken, tuna, and hard-boiled egg.
Aji de Gallina
This dish is made of chicken strips stewed with yellow chili peppers called aji amarillo, sweetened milk, cheese, and de-crusted bread. There are restaurants in Peru who would add walnuts in the dish, an upscale or gourmet version of an old Peruvian favourite. What only differs are the spices that are included in the dish, and it varies from one household or restaurant to another.
Chicharrones is everyone’s favourite snack. It is basically deep-fried pork skins that is seasoned with salt. Some people would like to add other spices like chili powder or pepper. They also serve seafood chicharrones like deep-fried squid. Weirdly enough, while some of us consider this a snack dish, Peruvians also serve this for breakfast.
Anticuchos are basically brochettes or skewers of grilled meat marinated in different spices. In restaurants, these are served as appetizers or starters. Remember to learn Spanish words before you visit to help you when ordering. There are street vendors who would sell them smeared with specialty sauce. While you can make the dish with any meat, the traditional Anticuchos are made with beef heart.
Out of countless Peruvian dishes you can try on your trip, make sure you get to taste these 5 amazing dishes. These are the quintessential Peruvian flavours that you should not dare to miss.