Travel stories, tips and suggestions for travel in South America

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Top 10 Foods in Peru You Have To Try

By Claire Sturzaker 

Peru is renowned for its cuisine, and rightly so. Immigrants from Europe, Asia and Africa all came to Peru with their own style of cooking, and fused it with traditional flavours to create some of the most exciting and delicious food in the world.  Peruvian cuisine showcases the very best of ‘fusion’, and from street food to Michelin starred restaurants there is a huge range of dishes in Peru to choose from.

Traditional Peruvian cuisine is based on potatoes, corn, quinoa and legumes; and the spicy yellow ají and rocoto peppers add heat and colour to many dishes.  Restaurants will often offer a daily ‘menu del día’, a cheap 3 course meal including a soup, main course and a dessert or juice.

Peruvian food

Prices can vary from 7 soles (approximately 2.50 CAD or 2.00 USD) & up to 25 or 30 soles (9.50 – 11.50 CAD or 7.50 – 9.00 USD) in more touristy areas, but the menu is always a great way to sample local dishes for rock-bottom prices.  In the evenings, the à la carte menu is more expensive but of course you get more choice!

Food can vary wildly according to the region of Peru where you are, and dishes you find in the North are very different to those found along the coast or in the Andes.  Wherever you visit in Peru you are sure to find delicious food, but here are my top 10 must-try dishes in Peru that you simply have to eat while you are here!

10 Must-Try Dishes in Peru

1. Ceviche

peruvian ceviche




This classic Peruvian dish is made of pieces of raw fish marinated in lime juice and chilli to ‘cook’ the fish. Ceviche is usually served with sliced raw onion, choclo (corn), a slice or two of sweet potato, and perhaps some lettuce for a bit of colour.  More popular (and fresher) around the coast, this delectable dish has just the right amount of spice to mix with the tart lime and fresh fish. Generally, ceviche is made with a white fish such as sea bass or sole, although you will also find mixed ceviche including cooked prawns, a ceviche of concha negra (black blood clams) in the North of Peru, or trout ceviche around Lake Titicaca where the lake provides an abundance of the freshwater fish.

2. Anticucho

Not for the faint hearted, this is street food at its best.  Marinated slices of beef heart, threaded onto skewers and barbecued over an open flame – a delicious, iron-rich snack for the meat lovers out there!  If you’re not sold on the beef heart, you can also find anticuchos of normal chicken or beef meat, although the beef heart is the most traditional.

3. Palta a la Reina

Peruvian Avocado Palta a la Reina

Avocado is king in Peru, or should I say queen?  There are many simple starters made with sliced or halved avocado, the creamy pale green flesh needing little to compliment it. Palta a la Reina, is ‘Avocado, Queen Style’ and usually includes one, or even two, avocados stuffed with a mixture of shredded chicken, carrot, potato, green beans and mayonnaise.  It makes great light lunch or starter for your main meal, and lots of healthy vitamins too!

4. Papa a la Huancaina

Of course the potato is the real king in Peru.  There are over 3000 types potato in Peru and this dish, originating from Huancayo in the central highlands of Peru, highlights the yellow potato as its main ingredient.  The potatoes are boiled whole, then sliced and served smothered in a creamy, spicy, cheesy ‘Huancaina’ sauce.  Accompanied by lettuce, boiled eggs and black olives, this is a great dish for veggies too.

5. Lomo Saltado

Lomo Saltado Peruvian food

This fabulous dish showcases the blend of traditional cuisine with the Chinese stir-fry style of cooking.  Slices of juicy steak are stir-fried with onions, tomatoes, cilantro and aji, and served with fries and rice on the side, or sometimes all mixed in together.  This dish truly has everything!

6. Aji de Gallina

A scrumptious dish made from shredded chicken in a creamy yellow sauce, served with rice, boiled potatoes, and black olives.  At first glance this is very similar to Papa a la Huancaina with chicken – but the secret is in the sauce.  The famous aji amarillo (yellow spicy peppers) give the sauce its unique flavour, together with mixed walnuts, milk and cheese.  A Peruvian classic and definitely one of the must-try dishes in Peru!

7. Arroz Chaufa (Chifa Style)

Arroz Chaufa Chifa peruvian rice dish

A whole style of cooking evolved from the mix of Chinese immigrants who came to Peru in the 19th century and starting serving up their traditional dishes.  Chifa comes from the Mandarin word meaning ‘to eat rice’, and the fusion came from the lack of availability of Chinese ingredients in Peru and the immigrants used what they could find in their dishes.  Chaufa is a stir fried rice which combines Chinese and Peruvian flavours, and can be made with beef, chicken, hot dog sausages or a mix of all three.

8. Causa Rellena

Another classic Peruvian food where the potato reigns supreme.  In this traditional dish, mashed yellow potato is layered with tuna or chicken, avocado, sometimes other vegetables, and plenty of mayonnaise.  Served as a starter or a snack, the key is in its pretty presentation and combination of layers.

9. Cuy

cuy Peruvian Guinea Pig

You can’t have a list of must-try Peruvian dishes and not include our furry friend the guinea pig. Viewed by many of us in Europe and North America as a cute family pet, here in Peru guinea pigs are a sustainable, easily reared, and tasty source of meat. Andean families keep cuy in their homes to add warmth in the winter, entertain the kids, and even diagnose illnesses, but they simply love to eat them!  Usually roasted on a spit and served whole (including the head, teeth and feet) this dish may be a step too far for the squeamish, although you can ask for it to be served without the head.  With a flavour somewhere between chicken and rabbit, the meat is surprisingly tasty if cooked well, so be sure to seek out a restaurant with a good reputation to get the best guinea pig!

10. Rocoto Relleno

Rocoto Relleno Peru food

Peruvians are definitely fans of stuffing things.  Palta (avocado), papa (potato) and rocoto (a kind of spicy bell pepper) are often served stuffed with various delicious fillings.  My favourite of these is the rocoto relleno.  Traditionally from Arequipa, though also common in Cusco and the rest of Southern Peru, these spicy peppers are served stuffed with a tasty minced meat mixture, and usually deep fried in batter.  Served with rice, potatoes, or perhaps a bit of salad, this is comfort food at its best!

Watch out for Inca Kola!

Not technically a food, so I haven’t included this in the Top 10 list, however Inka Cola is a Peruvian national institution.  More popular in Peru than Coca Cola, the American giant bought shares in Inka Cola, as they were worried about the competition!  This freakishly yellow, ridiculously sweet fizzy drink is sure to rot your teeth if you drink too much, but to Peruvians it is sweet, sweet nectar and they drink it like water.  If the yellow colour doesn’t put you off, prepare for a taste like bubble gum or cream soda.  Be sure to give it a try to get a ‘real’ taste of Peru!

 


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Creator & writer of Tales of a Backpacker. Claire Sturzaker is currently backpacking South America sharing her adventures, tips, tricks and thoughts about life on the road. You can also find her on Twitter & Instagram!

 

 


 

Keep this list for later or share with others on Pinterest – just hover over the image below and click “Pin it”!

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Unique Things To Do In RioOff -The Beaten

The Wanderbaums caught our eye with their fantastic Instagram account, and once we read their blog, we knew we wanted to have them as guest bloggers! They’ve written more about their time in Rio de Janeiro on their blog but have put together a great round-up of off-the-beaten-path must-dos while there, including some more of their great photos! 

5 Unique Things To Do In Rio de Janeiro

rio de janeiro, rio beaches, brazil beaches, brazil

Thanks to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro is quickly popping up on everyone’s radar. By the end of August next year, people everywhere will be exposed to the breathtaking views, the culture, and the must see spots all over Rio.

We were fortunate enough to visit back in 2013 and still haven’t gotten over how amazing this city is! Not only for all the top attractions like Sugarloaf mountain, Christ the Redeemer statue, Copacabana beach and dining at an all-you-can-eat steak house, but also for the smaller, hidden experiences you can discover in a city of 6 million people.

We’ve put together our top 5 “off the beaten path” things to do in Rio.

1. Try Some Local Delicacies

rio juice, juice in brazil

We are self-proclaimed foodies and when we travel, we get serious when it comes to researching restaurants and local cuisine to try on the trip. Many guide books will make sure you are aware of the Brazilian classic dish, feijoada, which is a beef and stew lunch favorite and many times served with the national drink, a caipirinha (South American take on a margarita). Though those may be the most popular local choices, a couple of our favorite treats turned out to be dulce de leche churros and coconut water straight from the fruit, both sold right on the beach.

coconuts on the beach rio de janeiro

Brazilians are much more into juicing than coffee or tea so we stopped at several juice bars to get some fresh pressed juices. The açai berry is extremely popular here in the states, but it originates in Brazil so do yourself a favor and get an açai smoothie the second you arrive- and every day until you leave!

churros brazil, rio brazil,

As for real substance, we enjoyed Spanish tapas the most. We took a taxi to a place we researched and when we arrived, we got out, the taxi left and we weren’t in the right spot. So we walked down the street and found a different tapas restaurant set in a beautiful white house, Entre Tapas. We were the only non-Cariocas (cariocas are people from Rio) and relied heavily on origins of words to order from a Portuguese menu but we had some of the best authentic Spanish tapas ever! A pleasant happenstance indeed.

2. Hit Up A Hippie Market

hippie market rio, rio de janeiro

Hippie market, flea market, open-air market, whatever term you prefer, use it and find one in Rio! We were dropped at the Hippie fair in Ipenema and found a huge array of artisan products from handmade pottery and jewelry to mugs and t-shirts. We found some amazing art that was priced so well we wound up buying several pieces and bonus, most of it was unframed and worked well to pack in our luggage.

3. Checkout Escadaria Selarón

Selaron Brazil

This alley is pretty popular now thanks to Pinterest, but it’s most definitely a photo worthy stop. A little west of the city center is a winding pedestrian street with mosaic tile art covering the stairs leading up to the Saint Teresa neighborhood. Just don’t go too far up the path because they lead to a rough, impoverished area. The Selarón artwork is much more touristy now so safety is less of a concern, but being aware is just as important.

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Venture Into the City Centre

rio de janeiro city center

Going into the heart of the city, where the locals work and live, is not great for English-only speakers, but it’s very doable to get by. I’m going to get on my soap box for a second so bare with me… Honestly, we came across many language barriers in Rio, but we were blessed with wonderfully friendly Cariocas that were willing to give us directions, help us understand the ordering system at restaurants, explain road signs for us and they did it with the friendliest smiles! Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re lost or confused. Guide books can only help you for so long!

Travessa do Comercio rio de janeiro

Anyway back to the city center… It’s beautiful, full of gorgeous 17th and 18th century architecture and it has the most authentic spot for cafés and pastries. Specifically, the Travessa do Comércio area where the cobblestone alleyways are filled with restaurants and coffee shops. It sounds a lot more like Italy than Rio, but that’s what we loved about the city, so magnificently unexpected!

5. Explore A Different Beach

ipanema beach rio de janeiro

Most moderately priced hotels will be on Copacabana beach which is why many tourists stay put, but if you venture just a little south, along the coast line, you’ll hit Ipanema and Leblon beaches. If you like your space, Leblon tends to be less crowded and Ipanema is famous for its views of the twin brothers (Dois Irmãos) mountain. It’s worth the
visit just to see it at sunset.

Both areas offer restaurants and wonderful shopping just across the street from the sand. It’s like taking a taxi from Soho, New York and ending up at Miami beach… Does it get any better?

twin brothers rio de janeiro

If you plan to visit Rio de Janiero in the future, we hope these things make your list. Also, check out our detailed blog post about the more popular and frequented visited places in Rio.

 

Do you have a favourite off-the-beaten-path destination in Rio? Comment below and tell us about it!

 


From The Wanderbaums!

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If you are interested, please visit our site over at www.wanderbaums.weebly.com.

We also want to thank Carolann and Macrae for allowing us space on their site to tell you all about our Brazil trip! Thank you guys so much!!

Until Next Time, C + D