When you think of Peru you probably imagine the beautiful Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, the lush green of the Amazon and the colorful textile markets. Food is not the first thing to come to mind, or if it is you might recall all the rumors that Peruvian cuisine consists mostly of guinea pig and potatoes. But believe us, you’d be missing out if you let the rumors get to you. With a wealth of flavors and spices that can’t be missed, here are 5 peruvian dishes that you should try immediately – no guinea pig in sight!
Raw fish marinated in citrus. Sounds a little strange, tastes absolutely delicious. Peru’s coast is one of the most bountiful fishing areas, and simply prepared ceviche (pronounced se-vee-ché) is the national dish of Peru for good reason. The fish, usually sea bass, is ‘cooked’ in a mixture of lime, red onions, and aji pepper, giving it a delicious and refreshing kick. Ceviche is often served with boiled corn and creamy sweet potato to balance out the flavors. If you’re feeling extra bold you can drink the rest of the salty/citrus marinade which is called leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk.
In this flavorful dish, red aji rocoto chilies are stuffed with a delicious mix of ground beef, onions, garlic, olives, raisins, herbs, and spices. The peppers are topped with cheese then baked. Roccoto peppers are about 10 times as spicy as a jalapeño so this dish packs a punch. However, the spiciness is lessened by the savory and sweet stuffing. Although this dish is traditional to Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city, it can be found all over the country.
Pollo a la Brasa
This whole roasted chicken is one of the most famous Peruvian dishes, and probably the easiest to find in Peruvian restaurants across the world. Translates to “chicken of the grill”, the trick is in the marinade – a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, herbs and spices, then roasted for hours on a spit. The skin and meat have a delicious smoky/salty taste. The chicken is traditionally paired with fried yucca and spicy mint sauce, or in the cities with french fries and salad, generally all for under $5.
We did say that Peru is known for potatoes, but this dish proves that there’s nothing boring about the common spud. Causa starts with a layer of Peruvian yellow potatoes mashed with lime, oil and spicy aji amarillo sauce. Next, a layer of shredded tuna, salmon, or chicken mixed with mayo is added. It’s topped with layers of avocado, hardboiled eggs, and olives. The dish is served cold, usually as an appetizer or side dish.
Now, let’s talk about some sweet stuff. Lúcuma is a subtropical fruit that looks a bit like a mango or avocado on the outside. It has dry flesh and is loaded with a lot of nutrients and fiber. The flavor is like nothing you’ve tried before – sweet and caramel-y, something like a mix of maple syrup and sweet potato. Again, sounds kind of strange, tastes fantastic. You’ll find it as a flavor in lots of desserts or as a beloved ice cream flavor.