Peru is truly a culinary paradise. From the gigantic lemon meringue pies, to the vast array of exotic and tropical fruits and the national dish of Ceviche, there is much to tempt your taste buds.
Peruvians are very passionate about their cuisine and rightly so: it is considered one of the most diverse cuisines in the world.
And Lima is considered the gastronomical capital of the Americas. The huge variety found in Peruvian cooking comes from three main elements: Peru’s unique geography; the blend of cultures and races in Peru and the mix of ancient elements with new elements.
There is a huge range of foods grown and produced in Peru. Peru is the birth place of the potato and boasts more than 2,000 varieties of this tuber and 2016 varieties of sweet potato.
There are hundreds of local dishes and a visitor will never have time to try all of them, but there are some essential eating experiences that should not be missed:
Aji de Gallina: Is a chicken dish that is made with Peruvian chili and cream. It is a popular home style dish that is full of flavor, but not usually hot spicy. Some variations on the recipe add pecans, which is a very nice touch. It is served with rice.
Arroz con Mariscos: is a Peruvian style Paella. A rice dish mixed with cilantro, shellfish and tomato.
Ceviche: Ceviche is a delicious fish dish which is cooked in the acidity of lime juice. This is the national dish of Peru and I am yet to meet a Peruvian that is not passionate about it. White fish or Shellfish are combined with lime juice, chili, cilantro (coriander), red onion and salt. Every Peruvian house wife has their own special way of making this dish. It is often served with corn or yucca. If you only try one Peruvian dish, this should be it. It is absolutely delicious.
Causa: Causa is one of the most popular dishes along the Peruvian coast. The history of the dish goes back to the early 1900s when Peru was at war. Mothers and wives prepared the dish which contained all the essential nutrients to keep their boys at the front well fed. The dish is made with mashed yellow potatoes that form the base and top. In the middle is either tuna or chicken in a mayonnaise sauce. On top it is garnished with boiled egg and avocado. It sounds like a strange mix, but trust me, it works.
Sudado de Mariscos: Sudado is another seafood dish that is absolutely to die for. It is a steamed fish stew that is bathed in chili, coriander, tomatoes and onions.
Papa Rellena: Papa Rellena is a mashed potato dumpling usually filled with mince, egg and olive and then fried. They can often be found sold on the street for about one sol. They are served with mayonnaise, chili sauce and red onion soaked in lime juice.
Palta Rellena: Is a hollowed out avocado filled with a stuffing of chicken and vegetables mixed with mayonnaise.
Papa Huancaina: Is steamed potato covered in a yellow creamy sauce with a touch of chili.
Parihuela: Is a seafood stew similar to Sudado.
Alfajores: A delicate short bread type biscuit filled with a type of caramel. They melt in your mouth and are absolute bliss to eat.
Arroz con Leche: Is basically rice pudding made with cloves and cinnamon.
Mazamora Morada: This is a purple corn jelly-like dessert. It is served with stewed apple, pineapple or raisins. It is a more-ish dessert that is reasonably low in sugar.
Inka Kola: All Peruvians grow up swilling this soda drink. It is as ubiquitous as it is sweet. The drink is a national institution having been made since 1910, originally by an English immigrant family. The drink is made with lemon verbena, which along with some coloring gives it its distinctive yellow color. It tastes pretty much like creaming soda, but don’t tell Peruvians that to them it is “El Sabor del Peru” the flavor of Peru.
Pisco Sour: Is Peru’s national drink. There is some debate about whether it was invented in Chile or Peru. In Peru the story goes that it was invented by American expatriate Victor V. "Gringo" Morris at The Morris Bar in Lima. The cocktail quickly became popular with locals and soon many of the grand Lima hotels of the time such as The Maury and The Hotel Bolivar began serving pisco sours to their international guests. The drink is made with pisco, a type of brandy; lime, bitters and egg white.
Chicha Morada: Is a purple corn drink that is made with pineapple and cinnamon. It is served chilled and is very refreshing. You can buy it in powdered form in the supermarket so that you can enjoy it when you are back at home in your own country.