8 Must-Try Peruvian Dishes!
It's no secret that Peruvian cuisine is one of the most diverse cuisines in the Americas—and the world, even. Their food is a direct reflection of their multicultural history, thanks in part to their heterogeneous population that hails from all corners of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. While it may not be feasible to take a trip to Peru now and try all the best dishes the country has to offer due to the current situation, there's nothing wrong with a little wishful thinking.
In the meantime, you can begin jotting down your culinary bucket list by taking note of these must-try Peruvian dishes:
A staple in the Peruvian street food scene is the anticuchos, which is essentially grilled heart meat on a stick, akin to Japan's yakitori. Rumor has it is that it dates all the way back to the Inca empire. Multiple types and cuts of meat are used, but the beef heart or the corazón is the star of the dish. While it may seem absurd to consume a heart, it's coated in an acidic aji panca, garlic, and spice-filled sauce, and then quickly grilled over high heat to make it nice, tender, and oh so savory. As for the texture, Zagat notes that it's slightly gamey, much like a grass-fed filet mignon. If you find yourself in Lima some time in the future, Tio Mario's rendition of anticuchos is worth trying out. In fact, Tio Mario's has become a tourist destination in itself that Pariwana's Barranco tour has it as one of the pit stops.
Aguadito de Pollo
Also known as Peruvian chicken soup, aguadito de pollo is the country's take on the basic chicken, rice, and veggie soup, except that it adds a fresh and fun kick by infusing it with tons of cilantro, peppers, onions, garlic, and lime juice. These extra ingredients are mixed in a blender and combined with the base before serving. As a result, you get a bowl of soup that's oozing with flavor. If you want to give it a go, Siete Sopas in Lima has its own version, and the best part is the place serves soups 24/7. Luckily, this hole-in-the-wall happens to be a 10-minute walk from the Pariwana hostel. You can easily get your soup fix without traveling far if you book a stay.
Another popular Peruvian soup-based dish is the quinoa soup, which has different ingredients depending on who makes it. However, it's typically composed of squash, beans, and potatoes. If you're wondering why Peru is known for quinoa, it's because according to some accounts, the grain was considered sacred by ancient Incas. They found it so nourishing and vital to life that they called it "chesiya mama," which means mother grain.
Pollo a la Brasa
Of course, one can't talk about Peruvian cuisine without mentioning the ever-popular pollo a la brasa, or Peruvian roasted chicken. A staple of Peruvian cuisine, it's now often served with chimichurri. The classic combo has been picked up by restaurants across the world and has inspired many variations. Jonah de Jesus of Daydreaming in Paradise writes how a Latin-American and Asian fusion restaurant has paired a delicious wood-roasted chicken with a chimichurri that blends Vietnamese, Thai, Peruvian, and Filipino flavors. This just goes to show how versatile and popular Peruvian food is, given that it has been adapted by many cultures.
If you had to associate Peru with just one food item, it would have to be ceviche. The national dish of the nation, it's prepared by marinating bits of raw fish in Peruvian lime juice, and mixing the pieces with aji peppers, onions, and spices. It's so popular that it managed to warrant its own special holiday. On June 28 of every year, Peru celebrates the National Day of Ceviche.
Another incredibly popular Peruvian dish is lomo soltado, which is primarily a combination of Chinese stir-fry and classic Peruvian cuisine. As noted by Eat Peru, it's composed of tender strips of beef (although some variations serve it with alpaca meat) that are marinated in soy sauce, and then mixed with onions, tomatoes, and in true Peruvian fashion, aji chilies and other spices. Everything is mixed together until the beef is cooked right and the tomatoes and onions turn into a gravy-like consistency. As an extra touch, it's served with french fries and steaming white rice.
Although this dish hails from Arequipa, Peru's second-largest city, National Geographic notes that it's now served nationwide. At first glance, it appears to be a plain-old red bell paper, but upon closer inspection, it's actually a capsicum pubescens, which is ten times as hot as a jalapeno when raw. But in order to reduce its thermonuclear properties, it's usually boiled. The pepper is then stuffed with spiced, sautéed ground beef and hard-boiled egg, as well as topped with melted white cheese.
Peruvians love their pasta, too! They have their own version of the Italian pesto pasta called tallarines verdes, and it's likely because many Italians immigrated to Peru during World War II. These green noodles are creamier, milder, and sweeter than the original pesto pasta. Spinach is also added in, along with evaporated milk and fresh cheese. Many opt to cook it with spaghetti and a sprinkle of pine nuts instead of walnuts.
Solely submitted for pariwana-hostel.com
By Sandy Tucker