I won’t lie, I’m a bit of a picky eater. So when a full plate of anticucho (skewered cow heart) was placed in front of me, I wrinkled my nose a bit. But being in a new culture is all about trying new things, particularly food. Luckily for me, Peru has some of the most distinctive and delicious food I’ve come across during my travels abroad.
Peruvian gastronomy, considered among the best in the world, developed its fusion of flavors over a long process of cultural exchange between Europe, Asia, and West Africa. This mix of flavors gave rise to staples like Ceviche, Peru’s emblematic dish. In the Andes region, indigenous foods such as alpaca and cuy (guinea pig), also serve as part of the country’s national flavor. Different still is Amzonian cuisine, which harvests its foods from the biologically diverse Amazon Jungle. The following foods are some of the most interesting dishes I’ve tried so far.
Chifa, or Peruvian style Chinese food, has become one of the most popular types of food in Peru. There are thousands of Chifa restaurants across all districts of Lima and throughout the country. Be sure to try arroz chaufa (Cantonese-Peruvian style fried rice) and have your meal with a bottle of Inca Kola, the iconic Peruvian soft drink, the locals swear by it.
Affectionately known as the “alien fruit” by my friends, this fruit is quickly becoming one of my favorite foods here in Peru. Don’t let its strange appearance fool you, this fruit is delicious and has numerous health benefits.
Juane, a dish regional to the Amazon, is rice seasoned with turmeric, and chicken wrapped in banana leaves. Of all the foods I tried in the Amazon, this one was certainly my favorite.
Cuy is, you guessed it, guinea pig. It took a bit of coaxing to convince myself to eat it, but I’ll try anything once. I’ll admit it’s not my favorite, but the gamey flavor was certainly one to remember.
“It tastes like chicken” or “it tastes like beef” are common when trying out new meats, but I’m not sure either applies to an Alpaca steak. It’s lean, tender, and almost sweet. As one of the healthiest and oldest food sources of the Incan’s and pre-Incans, it remains a South American delicacy.
I caught it, and then I ate it. After a morning of fishing for piranhas on the Amazon River, this was one of the most memorable lunches I’ve had abroad.
- La Tuna
Much to my initial confusion, la tuna is not the fish you can find in a can. Tuna, also known as cactus fruit or prickly pear, is a fruit cultivated in Peru since ancient times. It is oval with a thick skin, green or orange to red in color. The bright red to purple inside contains many small seeds and tastes similar to a juicy, extra sweet watermelon and can be processed into jams, jellies, and juices.
Wash down any of these foods with the Peruvian favorites Inka Kola, limonada, or chicha morada (a sweet drink made from purple corn) and you’ll be sure to have a delicious meal.