The Peruvian cuisine is something very unique, and also highly important among all Peruvians. Peruvians love to eat and eat well, and very similarly to the Italian culture, you can't leave food on your plate otherwise it's a sign of rudeness. Before coming to Peru I had assumed that food here would be similar to that of Mexico, with lots of spices and beans (and thus resulting in a year of frequent bathroom trips!). I was pleasantly surprised when I read that Peruvian food was different, being based on the plentiful seafood supply from the Pacific Ocean.
The basic food groups here are rice, chicken and potatoes- it's almost strange if you don't eat a mixture if the three on a daily basis. The food does differ though between regions- for example, the food in the jungle is based more on bananas, fish and exotic meats (think turtle, monkey, worms etc), while the food in the mountains is based on guinea pigs, cheese, potatoes and dairy products.
The national take-away food is barbecued chicken 'pollo a la brasa', essentially just like the one you would buy from Woolworths or Coles. I really don't think it's anything special, nor can I understand the hype about it- for me a BBQ chook was something mum would buy on the way home from work if she didn't have time to cook! Peruvians love it though, and honestly it's hard to walk more than two blocks without coming across a 'polleria' (chicken restaurant). They usually serve it with chips, salad and Inca Kola (the national soft drink, which sort of tastes like bubble gum and I drink the stuff like water, it's SO GOOD!)
My favourite Peruvian foods so far would definitely have to be picarones, ceviche and of course pisco sour (white alcohol mixed with egg, lemon and jarabe de goma), though that being said, they're just a few of thousands of dishes that they have here.
Tomorrow I'll be going to Mistura, the biggest food festival in Peru, which is on at the moment. They have food from every part of the country, and thousands of people come from all over South America to try the specialties. I honestly wish I could go every day that it's on so I could try something from every part of this wonderful country, but unfortunately my wallet won't allow that. Anyone want to be my rich benefactor?
This will be the first in a series of a few posts, just simply because there's so much about the Peruvian cuisine that I want to show you all, and it's impossible to fit it all in one post. So for starters, here are some of the most common Peruvian dishes - and sorry about photo quality, most were taken on my iPhone!
Anticuchos, which are pieces of cow heart on skewers, are very common at 'parrillas' (barbeques) and though they may sound a little gross, they're delicious! I was skeptical at first, but after trying a bit, I loved them from the first bite. You usually eat them with 'aji' (chili, usually pummeled up into a sauce, and really spicy!).}
Papa rellena (stuffed potato), is just as it sounds. It's essentially a potato, mashed into pulp, then filled with meat, corn, beans, sauce... Anything, really. It's then fried, and served with a bit of rice (that's a small portion in the photo above) and salad. As you can see, salad here really isn't the same... After all, it's missing lettuce! Instead, Peruvians use red onion and lemon as dressing.
Arroz con leche (rice with milk), is, once again, pretty true to its name. I haven't actually ever seen it made, but from the taste, I'm assuming condensed milk is used, and a cinnamon stick is tossed in the pot. It more or less tastes like LeRice, but better, and is eaten as a dessert.
Ceviche, THE dish of Peru. Essentially it's raw fish, drenched in lemon juice, so the acid from it oxidises the fish and treats it. It's mixed with red onion, and served with sweet potato, corn (choclo, which has a very different taste to Australian corn) and maybe some fried corn kernels. It's native to the north of Peru, and if you don't eat it up there at least once a day, it's surprising!
Picarones, fried donuts made from sweet potato. As seen in the photo above, they're served with thick, runny honey, that's very sweet. They're apparently incredibly difficult to make, which saddens me, because I'd love to be able to make them when I come back to Australia, because they're blissfully delicious!
And last but not least, causa. Causa is a light entree-kind of dish, made from mashed yellow potato, chicken or fish in the middle, avocado and more potato. It's simple but delicious, and is a nice, light way to start your meal.