While most travel to Peru to visit stunning Machu Picchu, it is the wafting scent of food cooking in local markets that keeps people here. There is a joke in Peru that if the archeology fails to capture your attention, the food surely will. Peru is one of the few places on earth where it is completely acceptable if you would rather dine for hours with a glass of chicha morada and a plate of lomo saltado than see ancient civilization sites.
Gourmet food magazines around the world are featuring glossy spreads of Peru’s innovative fusion cuisine and a growing number of travelers are discovering what Peru’s local restaurants and markets have to offer. From world-class seafood to mouth-watering pisco sours and award winning chefs, Peru is becoming a premier food destination.
Visitors to Peru are often put off by the mysterious Spanish words they find on menus and consequently stick to staples like potatoes, rice, and beans. But it would be a crime to end your Peru vacation without trying a few of the nation’s finest delicacies. You can taste test at the capital’s most famous eateries on a Lima Culinary Tour, or use our free Peru Travel Guides to find the best restaurants. Wherever you travel in Peru, your path is destined to lead to gastronomic bliss.
While you shouldn’t drink the tap water in Peru, you certainly shouldn’t avoid the cuisine. Here are a few Peruvian must-try delicacies that often frighten the unacquainted traveler, but please the bellies of the brave.
“How would you like your guinea pig,” is not a question you’re likely to hear in a restaurant anytime soon, unless you’re in Peru. Served baked, fried, or barbecued, guinea pig, called cuy in Spanish, is scrumptious in all forms.
While many travelers find it difficult to accept that people eat what is considered a pet in their hometown, cuy has been eaten in the Andes for centuries. Originally consumed only by nobility, it can now be found in many Peruvian restaurants. Commonly served with the head, feet, and teeth all still attached, the taste is comparable to chicken or rabbit.
One of South America’s best-kept secrets for centuries, ceviche is gaining popularity around the world. Made of raw seafood marinated in citrus juice and delectable seasoning, it is best enjoyed on Peru’s Pacific coast. Celebrity chef and owner of several upscale restaurants around the world, Gastón Acurio aims to make ceviche as popular as sushi. If Japan can get westerners to embrace sushi, Peru can surely do the same with their take on raw fish.
Acurio is convinced that once people get to know ceviche and other Peruvian dishes, their taste buds will find a lifelong love. While his long list of restaurants continually grows, you can try Acurio’s ceviche recipe in San Francisco, New York City, Panama City, Mexico City, Santiago, Madrid, Quito, Bogota, Caracas, Barcelona, and of course all across Peru. The country is rooting Acurio on, hoping he will eliminate qualms of the uncooked dish and other Peruvian delicacies.
If you saw grilled cow heart written on a menu, you would most likely picture biting into a bloody mass and say no thank you! However, anticuchos (grilled cow hearts) have a similar taste and texture to other tender cuts of beef. Found both in restaurants and at sidewalk grills, they are a popular Peruvian food. If you didn’t know better you might think anticuchos were a typical kebab. Forget your reservations, try anticuchos and you may be pleasantly surprised to find it’s become your new favorite cut of meat.
Peru for Less is a group of travel experts who live, work, eat, and breathe all things South America. Their inspiration stems from a deep appreciation for the beauty and diversity that make this continent so special.