Top 5 Unusual Peruvian Dishes
Peruvian food is world renown and it is certainly one of the most distinctive and unusual cuisines in Latin America. Peru has a varied and rich culinary tradition and it was the first place in the world where potatoes were cultivated around 8000 to 5000 BC. Potatoes were introduced to Europe from Peru after the Spanish conquest in the 16th Century and they quickly became a staple crop across Europe. Although potatoes are still an important part of Peru’s modern day cuisine there are many other interesting native ingredients that make up the nation’s extraordinary gastronomy. In recent years the foodie scene in Lima has exploded with many new high profile restaurants opening. Many of the best restaurants in Latin America can now be found in Lima and it is certainly the best place to sample Peru’s unique cooking. It is said that Peru has over 400 different national dishes and each city and region have developed their own variations. Here we are going to list just five of the more unusual dishes you are likely to see on the menu in Peru and that you might like to try.
Ceviche is probably the most famous Peruvian dish. The word ceviche comes from the Quechua language word “siwichi” which means fresh fish. Although it is served in many countries throughout Latin America, it is thought to have originated in Northern Peru. It is certainly one of the most identifiable Peruvian dishes and perhaps the dish Peruvians are most proud of. Ceviche typically consists of fresh raw fish marinated in lime juice spiced with red onion and hot aji peppers and served with salad, camote (sweet potato) and choclo (a starchy Andean corn that is boiled). Ceviche is served all over the country but Peruvian’s say Lima is the best place to try it.
Anticuchos are skewers of beef heart grilled over an open flame and served with a garlic sauce. Anticuchos date back to the 16th century after the Spanish conquest when European ingredients such as beef and garlic started to become more common. The Spanish would eat the best cuts of the cow for themselves and leave the organs for their slaves that they brought with them. These days Anticuchos can be made with any type of meat and are a popular street food sold throughout Peru. They can also be found in high end restaurants where they are usually served as a starter.
Alpaca’s are the smaller cousins of llamas that are extremely common in Peru especially in the highlands. More famous as a source of expensive wool used to make jumpers, socks, hats, ponchos and textiles they have also been a traditional source of meat for centuries. The meat is extremely lean, lighter than beef and has a slightly gamey taste. It usually comes in thin steaks with vegetables and potatoes but can be served in a variety of ways.
Cuy (Guinea Pig)
Perhaps the most unusual dish you are likely to see in Peru is Cuy which is Guinea Pig. Although it can be quite shocking for us as we see them as pets, Guinea Pig is a common source of meat in the rural Peruvian highlands. Interestingly there is a replica of Da Vinci’s Last Supper painting in the cathedral in Cuzco where Christ and his disciples are sat around a plate of Cuy. This shows it was usually reserved for ceremonial meals but is now more common as a normal meal. Traditionally the animal is stuffed full of herbs and then barbecued whole over an open fire on a spit including the head! Higher end restaurants have created many different recipes which involve baking, braising and deep frying. The taste is similar to rabbit.
Lucuma is a subtropical tree fruit native to Peru that looks similar to a mango. Although it can be eaten raw it is more often used as flavouring in ice cream, juice, and many types of desserts. It has a mild, sweet flavour similar to caramel or maple syrup.