Peruvian Cuisine

After an amazing and adventurous 10 days in Peru, I am home and back to reality. Since food is always the topic of conversation here, I thought I would share some of my experience and thoughts on Peruvian foods I had while in Peru. Here are a few highlights:

  • Quinoa or Kiwicha (amaranth) is very popular and is in many traditional dishes. They even use quinoa to make risotto calling it quinotto. Peruvians also refer to Kiwicha as quinoa with a lot more nutrients. It is used to make oatmeal, muffins, and bread or added to yogurt or cereal.
  • Corn and potatoes are major crops in peru, each being grown in hundreds of different varieties. Lots of candies, chips, and snacks are made of corn or corn flavored. At least one of the two comes with almost any entrée you find on a restaurant menu.
  • Rice is another common grain that comes with many meals. My favorite dish was arroz tapado, which is rice with ground beef cooked in a dressing, with hardboiled or fried eggs.

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    Alpaca for dinner

  • As for animals, alpaca can be found on many menus (which I tried once! – it is a mix between lamb and beef. It was a bit tough but had good flavor) along with beef, pork, and chicken. Guinea pig is a delicacy that can be found at some fancier restaurants (and is typically only eaten by Peruvians on special occasions).
  • Fish, especially trout, is on almost every menu due to the long Pacific coast and wildlife in the Amazon River. Other seafood, including octopus, shrimp and oysters, are also common specifically in Ceviche

Aside from these main foods and dishes I found throughout Peru, I also got the chance to visit a farm in the rainforest and eat some fruits that grow there. Some include:

  • Mandarins and oranges

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    Our guide peeling a lime for us to try.

  • Limes- which weren’t really sour
  • Cocoa- The beans of the cacao used to make chocolate come in a big pod. Surrounding each bean is a jelly-like coating that you can eat, which is actually really fruity tasting.
  • Grapefruit
  • Cedro- A fruit similar to lemons, which is very high in vitamin C and used by the locals to stop itching.
  • Mocambo- Imagine the taste of a cantaloupe in the shape/texture of a banana–I didn’t enjoy it.
  • Camu camu is another popular fruit, which is known for its high vitamin C content. I didn’t get to try the fresh fruit, but I did try camu camu juice. It wasn’t bad but didn’t have tons of flavor.

While we visited the Amazonian farm, our guide taught us a lot about how various fruits, leaves, and plants were used by the Amazonian people to cure everything from itches and stomach aches to ulcers, cancer, and conjunctivitis.

Finally, because we all know how much I love grocery shopping, I had to spend some time roaming the aisles of Peruvian grocery stores. Most of the grocery stores are much smaller than the ones in the U.S., but they have quite a variety of products. I found Ritz crackers and Oreos but also many of the traditional foods I mentioned like kiwicha, corn, and quinoa.

While the grocery stores did have some meat and produce, I learned that most Peruvians get those types of food on a daily basis at local markets. I visited the San Pedro market in Cusco where hundreds of local farmers, butchers, and vendors were selling cuts of meat, fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, cheeses, and some grains.

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Slices of fresh watermelon and pineapple on the street

Personally, as someone who loves grocery shopping and cooking, I love the idea of getting fresh food at a market everyday. I wish I had had a place to cook while I was there because I would have had a field day buying all the fresh food.

Overall, it was an exhausting but amazing, memorable, and delicious trip, but I am glad to be home and back to cooking in the kitchen (instead of eating every single meal at a restaurant).

Dana

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