Inspired by a country which boats everything from the Amazon Jungle, to expansive coastlines and daunting glaciers, Peru’s gastronomic scene is both diverse and experimental.
Peru is world renowned for its cuisine. Tourists flock to try its edible delights and Lima’s Central Restaurant recently ranked 5thin the world and even featured on Masterchef UKin 2018.
Living in Lima has allowed me to explore a labyrinth of dishes and styles of cooking, from Ceviche (raw fish dish marinated with lemon and spicy aji), to the fusion of Chifa (a new cuisine created through the mixing of Japanese and Peruvian flavours), and the ever reliable Arroz con pollo.
I could write a whole post about Lima’s food scene, but will save that for another time. This is because I recently took a trip to the city of Arequipa in southern Peru, which offers a more sophisticated and experimental cuisine than Lima. Arequipa’s tasty traditions date back to pre-Inca times, and many tourists today visit the southern city with the sole purpose of discovering its famed gastronomy.
Here are a few of the ‘delicacies’ I tried:
Yes, Alpacas are adorable, but they are also a staple food for the locals here. I was recommended this place, Crepisimo, by almost all of the guide books, and it did not disappoint.
Alpaca meat was tender and tasty, tasting like something between beef and lamb. I would definitely recommend! The crepe itself was also cooked very well, and the herby garlicy creamy sauce was perfect.
2. Soltero de Queso
If you are vegetarian and considering traveling in Peru, I can only say good luck. It is not an established diet here. Most of the vegetarian options on menu, if any, will be a veggie omelette at best. Vegetables are also pretty rare to come by with most traditional dishes.
However, this traditional dish in Arequipa would top any vegetarians’ list. It doesn’t look all especially tasty, but somehow chucking a variety of different vegetables, beans, and traditional lime dressing on a plate works surprisingly well. The main event on this dish is the cheese. You won’t be finding any cathedral city cheddar or cranberry Wensleydale out here, but this Peruvian cheese is tasty and refreshing.
3. Rocoto Relleno
This number is advertised everywhere as THE dish of Arequipa. Consisting of a spicy rocoto pepper, meat and vegetable filling, with a side of cheesy potatoes.
Looks can be deceiving, and this dish in two ways Firstly, this is not a bell pepper! It is spicier than it looks. Secondly, despite the photo, this dish was incredibly tasty.
This dish is only ever served on Sundays in Arequipa, so I felt obliged to try it. After a quick search on Tripadvisor, I found The Super Adobo in the old historic district of the town, promising the best Abodo in the whole city. When I ordered, I still wasn’t sure what it was, but the smell in the restaurant was enough to heighten my anticipation for this famous dish.
What can basically be described as a marinated pork and onion stew with a hefty bread roll, was probably the best meal I had during this trip. Simple but full of flavour, and nothing better than dipping some freshly baked bread in the left-over sauce.
5. Americano dish
There is a famous style of restaurant in Arequipa called Picanterias, which serve up huge plates of a mixture of traditional dishes between 12pm and 6pm every day.
I was a bit overwhelmed by the menu, so chose one which looked like it had a taste of everything.
What I think was on this plate (still unsure):
Still unsure of some of the ingredients on this dish, it was an interesting experience trying to get through some of the different parts. Most was fairly tasty, with the beef stew a favourite. However, other parts I would definitely not rush to try again, specifically the pork legs and the weird noodle pie. Also, far too much for one person and I ended up taking half of it in a doggy bag! An interesting new experience, but not one of my preferred dishes.
6. Guinea Pig
I couldn’t have come to Arequipa, let alone Peru, without trying another one of their national dishes. Before Arequipa, the only guinea pigs I had seen were laid out in a market looking vile, so I wasn’t sure I could bring myself to try one.
I asked at my hostel this time for a recommendation, thinking if I was going to try it then I would try it properly at a renowned cuy (guinea pig) restaurant. Setting me back about 55 soles (£12), this is one of the most expensive dishes I have had my whole time in Peru!
The most traditional way to eat this is deep fried with some onion salad and potatoes so I jumped in and went for it.
I agree it does not look appetising in the slightest, and unsurprisingly there isn’t much meat on the dish, but what meat there was present was actually delicious! It was tender and full of flavour and melted in my mouth, and the crispy potatoes were stunning. It also came with a sweet, oat porridge type thing (second picture), which surprisingly was an excellent complement. I could have eaten a whole dish of it to be honest.
Only thing I wouldn’t recommend when trying a Cuy, is turning it over to see some wee guinea pig teeth. I’m glad I did this after eating it.
Peru, and South America as a whole have some excellent coffee. I have tried my fair share over 6 months, but a coffee at PUKU PUKU here in Arequipa was the best I have had yet.