Peru has plenty of delicacies of its own, and has contributed some extraordinary dishes to the World's cuisine. Since most urban restaurants in Peru serve pizza and burgers, it is easy for tourists to ignore the traditional Peruvian food. However when you try these mouthwatering Peruvian foods, you will never step into a pizzeria as long as you are in Peru. Here are the top 20 Peruvian foods and drinks. If we left something important, let us know at the 'comments' section at the bottom.
1. Cuy Al Horno (Roasted Guinea Pig): Roaming in the rustic town of Chivay, we decided to step into a house with a red flag. We can't really call it a flag, it is a stick with a red cloth wrapped around it. The red flag is a symbol that the home serves homemade food. There were plenty of guinea pigs crying wee..wee..in a corral type blockade. There were some tables and chairs next to the corral. You can pick the Guinea pig you like, and it is picked up and roasted in an oven right in front of you. Next thing you know, the whole guinea pig with its toothy smile is sitting on a plate in front of you. The dish is delicious, but you may feel real guilty for eating the poor guinea pig. Interestingly, guinea pigs are originally from Andes (not Guinea) and they don't belong to pig family either.
2. Carne de Alpaca (Meat of Alpaca): Alpaca is a short, camel like domesticated animal. Alpaca meat has the lowest cholesterol content of all meats and also has very low fat content. Many Peruvians call it the "no fat meat". Alpaca meat has been eaten in Peru since the Pre-incan times, which was the primary source of protein. Carne de Alpaca is generally served with onions, broccoli and other seasonings.
3. Pisco Sour: This is the national drink of Peru. It has the base of Pisco (grape brandy) mixed with lime (hence the term sour). The other ingredients are egg white, sweet syrup and angostura bitters. It is served in every bar and club in Peru. In fact, Peru celebrates a public holiday on the first Saturday of February to honor Pisco Sour. This drink is excellent in terms of taste and can definitely give you a good buzz.
4. Anticucho: Looks very similar to beef kebab, but this food is originally from Peru. Beef heart is cut into pieces and cooked after marinating and smearing it with plenty of other ingredients. These ingredients include garlic, vinegar, pepper, lemon juice, beer, wine, oregano and vegetables. Anticucho tastes better than most Indian kebabs and is also consumed as a part of Peruvian ritual during traditional sports in Lima.
5. Rocoto Relleno: Red peppers stuffed with beef, this is one of the spiciest dishes of Peru. The peppers are baked and the insides are carved out. Then, beef is filled into it. In addition to the pepper's spice, the beef itself is cooked with paprika, garlic and onions. Rocoto is a pepper that is only available in Peru, the closest counterpart you will find in the US is red peppers. Eat this slowly, as your tongue could be on fire after a minute!
6. Ceviche (Raw Fish): Also called Seviche, it is raw fish marinated with lime or lemon. Prepared completely without any heat, this dish is served in room temperature and is usually served with chili peppers. Trout is the most common fish served in Peru, and this dish originated from Moors during the Spanish conquest.
7. Coca Sour: Want something stronger, better and more addictive than Pisco Sour? Try the Coca Sour! While this drink is available in sporadic restaurants in Peru, the best Coca sour is made on the streets of Andean mountain range. On the streets of Maca, a small Andean town, we saw an old man make Coca Sour. He had a blender and mixed all the ingredients: grape brandy, egg white, coca leaves and sugar syrup. It cost us 3 Peruvian soles for every drink, but the taste and the buzz was fantastic!
8. Inca Kola: Tasting like cream soda, this is a national icon of Peru. This is more widely sold than Coca Cola in Peru, and is sold in bottles, cans and plastic containers. It is definitely a must try, but it is an acquired taste. Guess who owns Inka Kola now? Coca Cola!
9. Cusquena Beer: This is the most popular beer in Peru and is the pride of Cusco city. Thousands of bottles of Cusquena are sold on New Year's Eve in Cuzco by street vendors. This beer is manufactured from pure glacier water located 18,000 feet in the Andean mountains. The beer is moderately bitter and is a 100% malt lager. This beer is also called Inca's gold (the only one the Spanish conquistadors did not take?)
10. Lomo Saltado: Salty strips of Sirloin served with onions, tomatoes and parsley. The cooking is done with Asian inspiration and usually served with rice. Of all the cities in Peru, Nazca makes the best Lomo Saltado.
11. Chifa aka Chaufa: This is is not one dish, but refers to the Chinese-Peruvian style of cooking. Over the period of many decades, Chinese cuisine has been adapted and modified by Peruvians. Many of the Chinese ingredients have been replaced by Peruvian ones. You can find many Chifa fast food joints in Peru. Arroz Chaufa (Fried rice) and 'Airport' are the most common Chifa dishes.
12. Coca leaves: Like the Dravidians chewing betel leaves, coca leaves have been chewed by Incas for many centuries. Unprocessed Coca leaves are still available in packets in shops all around Peru. They cost 1-2 Peruvian soles. When you put it in your mouth, it gradually makes your mouth numb and has a fun-like pungent taste. This is the same plant used for making Cocaine and the original Coca-Cola! Remember that you can't take coca leaves on airplanes, even through local planes inside Peru.
13. Coca Candy: Coca leaves are used to make a lot of different sweet varieties. Candies, chocolates, toffees and other coca-sweets are available in Peru. These candies have a sweet-pungent taste to them. It is recommended that you eat these candies while travelling high altitudes. Like Coca tea, they supposedly cure altitude sickness.
14. Mate de Coca (Coca Tea) : Coca Tea is served in most high altitude places in Peru. In Cusco, they serve it for free in most hotel lobbies. Made from unprocessed coca leaves, this tea acts as a cure for altitude sickness and as a digestive aid. This tea is a stimulant which gives a mild euphoria.
15. Pastel de Papas (Potato Cake): This is a delicious Peruvian delicacy that contains potatoes, eggs, milks, cheese, onions and garlic. Sometimes it is also spiced up with rocoto peppers. Pastel de papas are also famous in Argentina and Chile, and is slowly becoming a South American food these days.
16. Maiz Morado Dessert (Purple Corn): This is a dessert made from purple corn and tastes like jelly or jam. It is popularly served on all buffet tables in restaurants.
18. Platano Frito (Fried Sweet Plantains): Completely ripe plantains are sliced up and deep fried in oil. They are served as a part of the meal, not as dessert. These are crisp and sweet and make excellent sides. Platano Fritos are a specialty in Peru, but are found in all Latin countries and Caribbean countries as well.
17. Chicha Morada: This is a non alcoholic, sweet soft drink made from boiled purple corn. It is non carbonated, and is a refreshing drink as corn gives you a spurt of calories. It is on all buffet tables and also sold by street vendors. Don't confuse this drink with Chicha de Jora, an alcoholic drink also from Peru.
19. Emoliente: Who says mixed fruit juices should be served cold? Try this hot mix of fruits and herbs served on streets for a half Peruvian sole. Even better, you can pick and choose your own mix of fruits and herbs! This drink is a great value, very healthy and surprisingly stimulating.
20. Arequipena Beer: Like Cusquena, Arequipena is also a popular. It is sold all around Peru, but mostly in the Arequipa region. The beer is yellow in color and has 5% alcohol (by volume). The other popular beers in Peru are Cristal and Pilsen.
If you visit Peru, don't forget to try these foods and drinks. If you are a Peruvian and if we missed something out, throw it in the 'comments' section!