Lomo Saltado Peruvian food

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!

 

 


 

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21 replies
  1. Yasha Langford
    Yasha Langford says:

    I lived in Santiago de Chile for almost a year. When you ask the locals for a restaurant recommendation they always suggest the Peruvian restaurants. I am a big fan of Ceviche, especially the way the Peruvians serve it. And anything vegetarian that they do with potatoes. I remember eating Papa a la Huancaina in Cusco in 2008 – Yum! Thanks for the mouth-watering memories.
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  2. BROOKE Neal
    BROOKE Neal says:

    There was a Peruvian restaurant in the town where I attended college and we loved it. 20 years later, it has closed down (or moved) and I haven’t eaten Peruvian in almost as much time. We are hoping to go to Peru in the next 2 years to hike the Inca trail and your food pics have just added to my reasons to make sure the trip happens.

    Reply
  3. Grey World Nomads
    Grey World Nomads says:

    I wasn’t too much impressed by the food in Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. One advantage was that street food was pretty cheap. Peru may be different as the dishes look very tasty! #WeekendWanderlust

    Reply
  4. Brooke of Passport Couture
    Brooke of Passport Couture says:

    Fantastic to find travelers who enjoyed Peruvian food! The ceviche is like nowhere else in the world, you must have it in Peru. I also enjoyed Tamales Verdes (found only in northern Peru) and fell in love with Chicha Morado (the black corn drink that is actually purple and contains lime and cinnamon). I also found rocoto relleno to be incredibly spicy, but delicious! And yes, Inka Cola is a MUST!
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  5. Ruth
    Ruth says:

    I love Peruvian food! I have it almost every week (they know me and my husband at our local Peruvian restaurant). Even though I have not been to Peru, I have tried all the dishes in her except for the cuy. I am sure they are a 100 times better in Peru (and that is why I want to visit).

    Reply
  6. James Johnson
    James Johnson says:

    Hey guys,

    Great article! Peruvian food is my absolute favourite right now. I even found a cheeky little Peruvian restaurant in Madrid to get my fill on Lomo Saltado.

    I think if you’re paying over $5 USD you’re definitely overpaying for food there. While the cheaper restaurants may not look as attractive to some people, the quality of food is often as good if not better.

    Pollo a la Brasa is a huge favourite too. It’s probably the nicest chicken I’ve ever tasted, and for such a simple meal, it’s really filling. Great for a lower budget traveller, or if you’ve got a big day on without much time to eat.

    Great share,

    James
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  7. Lucia
    Lucia says:

    I am peruvian and I really agree with your post, our food is delicious and very diverse. Of course everybody would say the same about their gastronomy but since 2012 our country has won the World’s Leading Culinary Destination.. I’ve been living in US for so many years and I don’t know if some names have changed but I never knew about palta a la reina but palta rellena instead which means Stuffed Avocado. It’s funny for me that everybody thinks that all peruvians eat guinea pigs, that’s typical from the Andean region. I am from the coast, I never tried it and I never will. Also, it was a surprise for me the way Rocoto Relleno was made in this post,.. I tried it in Arequipa and in Lima and it was always baked with melted cheese on top and served with baked potatoes only. This one looks delicious too… Good post about our food, thank you!! PD; right know while I’m writing I’m drinking Inca Kola..

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      Amazing! glad to know that the girls did a great job writing this. They are our experts on food in Peru 🙂 so interesting that Guinea Pig is a regional thing, but it makes total sense. Thanks for reading and leaving this lovely comment, nice comments like this really validates all the hard work we all put into this!

      Reply
  8. Brice Pollock
    Brice Pollock says:

    Honestly, Cui is not very flavorful and super touristy. It should be taken off these travel lists.

    Reply
  9. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    This was such a great read! I’m from Perú, living in the states now but miss it terribly and this makes me miss it more! 🙂 I have to say, I never ate Cuy in Lima, where I’m from, I didn’t get that shock of seeing it in my plate until I was at my great grandma’s place up in the mountains, near an area called Celendín :-), and I couldn’t eat the little guy, I had been playing with them earlier in the day, no one told me it was going to be dinner! And also, I had 1 at home as a pet, so I really couldn’t do it, not for everyone and that’s ok 🙂
    Also that’s the first time I see Palta rellena called reina instead, I’m curious if it’s the same exact thing, as well as the stuffed pepper, those things are so good but I have never seen it like cooked like that, I’m curious and want to try it now lol
    Thank you so much for this, definitely makes me miss it so much more! 🙂

    Reply
  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Peruvian food is amazing!
    A recent discovery to the world’s cuisine. I envision Peruvian food making a presence one day similar to chinese, mexican or sushi around the world. Just look at all the awards and reviews it continues to get.
    Regardless, it is a delicious fusion of flavors from many different cultures. A must try!

    Reply

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