in Food

Food blog: Peru

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The food in Peru is pretty darn good, and I’m not just saying that because it came after Bolivia. There’s variety, from Chinese, African and Creole influences, there are a lot of gourmet cities with finer dining, and people here know how to use seasoning. Oh, and there are also weird meats like cuy if that’s your bag (definitely not mine!). Here’s our (LONG) list of typical Peruvian foods… I did say there was variety!

1. Lomo Saltado  
 
A real comfort-food staple of any menu, lomo saltado is strips of beef with fried onions, tomatoes, chips and rice (plus some herbs and veggies if you’re lucky). The best we’ve had was with alpaca meat, chives, coriander and lots of seasoning (found in a tiny village on a trek). But generally it’s a safe bet anywhere! There’s also ‘tallarin saltado’, which is the same but with noodles and chicken.

2. Aji de Gallina 
 
(Left) Seriously delicious creamy chicken stew served with olives, onion, and sometimes walnut. The creamy sauce is kind of curry-like and mustardy, and usually served with rice and/or potatoes. They also serve a similar sauce on potatoes and call it papas a la Huacaina, a very popular starter

3. Cuy (guinea pig) 
 
I refrained from trying this due to having lots of the cute furry guys as pets when I was a kid. However, Sam tried a cuy frito (fried) and said it had a crispy skin, a texture and taste crossed between turkey and rabbit, and a ‘sticky crunch’ with lots of bones to contend with. Other travellers have described it as ‘weirdly spongy’. I’m not convinced! I’ve included a picture of a cute live guinea pig here that we saw on a farm. If you want to see the horrific dead and fried guy, scroll to the bottom :(

4. Juanes 
 
A jungle classic, we tried this in Iquitos in the Amazon – it’s basically a mound of rice with eggs and meat hidden inside. It was ok, nothing special, but people love it there!

5. Bifstek Montado  
 
Pile of steak, chips and rice with a fried egg on the top (there seems to be a variation of this in every country!) The love of asados (BBQed meat) continues in Peru, and it’s on the menu everywhere. See ‘pollerias’ for the local spit-roasted chicken obsession….!

6. Inca Kola 
 
Jesus, we are hooked on this stuff. We were first introduced to it in Chile and Bolivia, but it’s omnipresent in Peru. Tastes like bubblegum, looks like a neon yellow nuclear fluid, and is so popular in Peru it outsold Coca Cola, and Coke had to buy it out. It’s full of sugar, it’s super refreshing and gives you a jolt of energy when served cold on a boiling hot day. Also in the sweet drinks addiction camp is ‘Gloria’ yoghurt drinks, which are just incredible and come in flavours like Lucuma, a fruit that tastes like caramel!

7. Causa rellena
  
Mashed potato terrines stuffed with anything from veggies to tuna to chicken. Usually served cold as a starter, sometimes with a creamy sauce, they’re super tasty.

8. Recoto relleno / palta rellena 
  
They love stuffing things here! Recoto relleno is a boiled pepper stuffed with ground-up meat and veggies, sometimes deep-fried in cheese on one side. Pretty sinful, but so so good.   They also stuff both avocado (palta) and egg with mayonesey veg for starters. Surprisingly good! 

9. Anticuchos
  
OMG. Beef hearts, on a skewer, barbecued, served with potatoes that have cooked in the same delicious fat. Unreal. Like the best, most tender steak you’ve ever eaten. You can also get skewers of chicken and other meats, but don’t fuck around. Go for the hearts.

10. Ceviche
  
Of course! Lima claims to have the best ceviche in South America, and having sampled some, I might agree. There are cevicherias in most of Peru, but I found the best on a Creollo market stall in Lima – it included octopus tentacles, white fish, and shrimp, and the ‘leche de tigre’ (limey marinade) was crazy tangy and tasty. Also came with yukka fries and a salad. SO GOOD.

11. Pisco sours
  
Peru’s national drink, you’ve probably already tried it, but it’s so tasty here. Deceptively simple, it’s just pisco, lime, sugar, egg-whites and bitters – with just the right level of sweetness. They’re sold in ‘jarras’ (jugs) everywhere for about 3 quid, along with their ginger-ale counterpart, Chilcanos.

12. Creollo food 
   
 
The beautiful marriage between African, Spanish and Andean cooking, Creollo, or Creole, cooking takes influence from the Afro-inspired Peruvian coast and includes foods like frijoles (beans), platanos (fried bananas), pollo nortena (curried chicken), tamales, taco-taco (fried rice dish with beans) There’s also a delicious Creollo soup that contains chicken, noodles, spices and a cooked egg yolk. Soo good!

13. Chifa
   
 
Me and Sam’s shameful addiction, Chifa is basically slightly different Chinese food. Insanely more-ish, we have at least a few Chifas a week, opting for faves like ‘pollo con pina’ (sweet and sour chicken with pineapple), fried sweet and savoury chickens called tipikay and chijaukay, rice dishes called ‘aeropeuerto’, noodles and ‘enrollado’ (battered) dishes. The ‘menus’ all come with either a soup with noodles, chicken, dimsum and spring onion in, or fried wantons with tamarind sauce. My saliva glands are going mad just describing this shiz. 

14. Pachamanca 
  
A mental traditional Andean dish of several kinds of meat and several kinds of potato, cooked in a hole in the ground covered in leaves and a herby drizzle. A bit soily but surprisingly nice!

15. Pollerias
  
A standard throughout Peru, these are spit-roast chicken joints where you get the chuck, big chunky chips, and 4 sauces – ketchup, mayo, mustard and aji (chili). Simple, reliable and cheap.

16. Chicha Morada
I fucking HATE this stuff, but Sam loves it. It comes in drink form (hot or cold) but also gross jelly/gooey form, it’s basically a blackcurrenty liquid spiked with cloves, cinnamon and berries. All i can taste is cloves. EUCH. 

17. Mate de coca 
Popular throughout Bolivia and Peru, these are the leaves from which cocaine derives, boiled into a tea. Good for altitude but tastes a bit yeasty, it’s a love or hate. I prefer the tea to chewing, but still an acquired taste!

Mancora, Peru

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For our last stop in Peru, we headed up to the far North, to Peru´s most popular piece of coast, Mancora. Mostly famous for its surfing, it´s a sleepy little tourist town brimming full of gringo cafes, restaurants, and a few bars on the beach. We´d heard that Mancora was super party, but as has happened often in South America, we found this to be a little of an overstatement! It basically just has a few bars! The crowd is young backbackers and ex-pats, the days are chilled, and the nights are ever-so-slightly more rowdy…

We only spent a few days there, and mostly took the time to chill out on the beach and get our sun, sea and sand fix after seeing very little coast for our 5.5 months in South America. After an initial cloudy day, the weather cleared and we fell into a comfortable rhythm of brunching, sunbathing, and boozing. Bliss!

We found an awesome cafe called Green Eggs and Ham right on the beach, that served dreamy big breakfasts with plenty of fruit, eggs, pancakes, smoothies… this quickly became our favourite and we went there 2 out of 3 mornings! They also had these INCREDIBLE hash browns, as shown in the photo…!

Town itself was pretty tiny… just a strip of restaurants and shops selling beachy stuff, but there were the standard additions of a church and a statue of South America´s liberators in gold (as always!)

There was also some pretty cool graffiti around town that we had some fun with! Police definitely seem less scary when they´re made into cartoon sea lions…

We spent most days lounging on a little bit of beach to the North of Mancora, which was a patch of sand that had been hemmed in by the tide, creating an almost private beach effect, away from the busier main strip of beach, full of hawkers and hungover suntanners!

On our last day, we decided to buy a load of cheap beers and get loaded on the beach, which was super fun! Each round of three LARGE beers cost us about 2 quid, and we burnt through our remaining Peruvian currency in style. One very drunk BBQ dinner later, we boarded a nightbus, VERY hammered, to cross the border into Ecuador…!