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The jewel of South America’s culinary landscape, Peru boasts a wealth of dining options thanks to its varied geography. Eating our way from the Andes to Lima on the Pacific coast, we’ve found the country’s ten best dishes – and they won’t blow your holiday budget.
10 Traditional Foods to Eat When Travelling in Peru
This dish forms a centrepiece of chifa – a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese cuisine birthed by mass immigration into Peru in the late 19th century. Marinated and stir-fried sirloin strips, red peppers, onions and tomatoes are paired with a gluttony of carbs in the form of rice and French fries.
Ají de gallina
The epitome of Peruvian comfort food, Ají de gallina will keep you full for a good while without denting your wallet. This mild stew of pulled chicken (traditionally simmered for hours) on a bed of Andean potatoes was introduced by African immigrants in the 16th century.
With over 3,000 potatoes grown in Peru, it’s hard to avoid a dish showcasing them at its very core. Generous patties of mashed potato plentifully combined with lemon juice are layered with chicken, seafood or vegetables to create a rustic terrine that is kind on your purse.
Originating in Arequipa, these hot stuffed rocoto peppers evoke the flavours of old-fashioned, peasant-style home cooking. Filled to bursting with chunks of braised beef and a spicy tomato sauce, they’re typically accompanied by a potato gratin to ensure maximum indulgence.
High in protein and low in fat, alpaca has long been a part of the mainstream eating habits across Peru. It’s a favourite meat of all classes and cultures in Peru – be it found in Milanese-style breaded cutlets, rich stews or juicy burgers.
Papa a la huancaína
Almost always brought to the table cold, this filling appetiser of thickly sliced potatoes is generously doused in a lightly spiced huancaína (cheese sauce) – the distinctive yellow hue of which comes from using native peppers known as aji amarillo.
This is the quintessential “must-try” while in Peru. Fortunately, in beach towns such as Mancora, it’s not something that breaks the bank. Succulent cubes of white fish, chilli, red onion and coriander are marinated generously in lime juice, the acidity of which essentially “cooks” the meat.
Seco de carne
Sink your teeth into this rich, slow cooking. This stewed beef dish is aromatically flavoured with citrusy coriander and braised with beans until the chunks of beef tear with even the delicatest of nudges. It is a staple of menu del dias across the land, from Puno to Tumbes.
With a refreshing brightness that feels instantly nourishing, the taste of this particular cactus fruit is remarkably similar to that of kiwi. As the sun pours down over the Colca Canyon, head straight to the street vendors for a sweet treat at a fraction of that of an ice cream.
The most economical way to sample the Pacific Ocean’s delights? A smorgasbord of deep-fried seafood at Agallas in Lima’s contemporary Mercado 28. Expect white fish, mussels, scallops and more for a fraction of what something this delicious ought be. Plated with yucca fries, salsa criolla and a garlic and chilli dipping sauce.
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