Peruvian cuisine is a prime example of a fusion style that combines culinary traditions of different peoples. Influenced by Asian and European gastronomic tastes, she combined the best that other cultures could give her without losing her own individuality.
Peruvian cuisine is very diverse.
Overview of Peruvian cuisine
Traditional Peruvian cuisine is characterized by a combination of dishes for every taste and budget. Here you can try local delicacies both in street eateries offering grilled food, and in luxurious Michelin restaurants, which prepare delicious dishes from exotic products.
The main feature of Peruvian cuisine is its variety. The culinary traditions in different regions of this Latin American state are very different.
Geographically, local cuisine is divided into 3 types:
- Coastal. Distributed in the western part of the country, where there is a narrow plain washed by the waters of the Pacific Ocean. The main ingredients here are seafood, fish, rice, vegetables and fruits.
- Amazonian. The east of the country is covered with dense tropical forests. The diet of the population is dominated by bananas, legumes, meat, poultry and freshwater fish, which are caught in Lake Titicaca.
- Mountain. Most of Peru is occupied by the Andes. The food here is prepared from products typical of the highlands: lamb, corn, potatoes, milk and cheese.
In addition, in remote regions of the country, the culinary traditions of the ancient Incas who once inhabited the territory of Peru are still honored. On these lands, dishes are prepared from traditional Indian products: dried alpaca meat, rotted potatoes, etc. The food is seasoned with fresh herbs.
Despite the regional peculiarities, it is customary to use a large amount of garlic, pepper and other spices throughout the country. Peruvians have a special love for the hot ahi pepper, which is added to stews and soups.
Ahi is a Peruvian pepper that is often used in cooking.
A distinctive feature of the kitchen is the desire of chefs not to leave food waste after cooking. They make chips from potato peels and pork skins, banana peels become raw materials for spaghetti, and broths are made from fish and animal bones. But this is not the limit of the fantasies of local chefs: some restaurants in Lima serve caramel made from pork blood for dessert.
Peruvian food is not only delicious, but also healthy. In cooking, the population uses local gifts of nature, which have been used for medicinal purposes since the time of the Incas.
Some common foods in Peru and their benefits include:
- arracacha eliminates indigestion;
- Morinda citrus-leaf prevents the appearance and growth of cancer cells;
- mashua removes the inflammatory process in the prostate gland;
- black poppy improves sperm motility, increases the likelihood of conception;
- red poppy strengthens the immune system at any age;
- Turkish delight has an antioxidant effect on the body;
- yacon regulates blood glucose levels in diabetes mellitus;
- camu-camu berries have anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, prevent the development of glaucoma;
- amaranth has a tonic effect, is used to prevent diabetes;
- chia seeds rejuvenate the body, have a positive effect on hormones and the nervous system.
In addition, fresh seafood and fish are actively used in the kitchen, which are sources of iodine, phosphorus, protein and other substances necessary to maintain health.
The history of the formation of modern Peruvian cuisine
Contemporary Peruvian cuisine is one of the oldest in the world. It began to form before our era under the Incas. Representatives of this Indian tribe ate maize, rice, root vegetables, avocados, tomatoes, chicken, pork, alpaca meat, etc. Milk and eggs were taboo for them, because they worshiped the processes of birth and raising offspring.
The ancient Incas were not familiar with spices. To improve the taste and aroma, they added fresh herbs to their food.
In the first half of the XVI century. the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Peru. They enriched the local cuisine with European dishes, introduced the Peruvian natives to garlic, spices, olive oil, lemon and other products common in Europe. Subsequently, the cuisine that arose as a result of the mixture of Inca and Spanish culinary traditions came to be called Creole.
The second style of cuisine – nikkei – appeared at the end of the 19th century, when thousands of Japanese migrated in search of gold in Peru. Here, as in the Land of the Rising Sun, there was a lot of fresh fish. From it, Japanese settlers prepared rolls and other dishes traditional for their country, supplementing them with local products: corn, sweet potatoes, lime, pepper and sauces.
At the turn of the XIX and XX centuries. The cuisine has experienced another influence from the outside, when the coast of Peru and its capital Lima began to be massively populated by immigrants from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.
They brought with them seeds of vegetables and fruits that were grown in their homeland, but still lacked ingredients for preparing their national dishes. The settlers found a way out by replacing the missing products with local gifts of nature. This is how the cuisine of the Chinese diaspora – chifa – appeared.
Creole, nikkei and chief are the foundations for shaping modern Peruvian fusion cuisine.
Today, thousands of restaurants are open in the country, where you can taste dishes that have arisen as a result of the mixing of the gastronomic traditions of several peoples inhabiting Peru.
What products are used
Despite the variety of destinations, Peruvian cuisine is based on products common since the times of the Inca civilization.
Since prehistoric times, potatoes have occupied the main place in the diet of the population. In the mountainous regions of the Andes, it began to be cultivated about 10 thousand years ago. It is believed that it first appeared here, and then spread throughout the world.
The Peruvians are so fond of potatoes that they have developed over 3 thousand varieties of it, and some of them, for example Solanum tuberosum, are not grown anywhere else in the world.
At the grocery markets, you can buy potato tubers of white, yellow, pink, red, purple and other colors. They are used to prepare soups, stews and other delicious dishes.
For Peruvians, rice is just as important as potatoes. In cafes and restaurants, it is served as a side dish for all dishes. He will be present on the plate along with meat, fish, potatoes, lentils and other products, even if he was not ordered.
Livestock raising in Peru is poorly developed, so meat is imported here from Uruguay, Argentina and other neighboring countries. Among the local population, the most common types of meat are chicken, pork, beef and lamb. Most of the local cuisine is prepared from them.
From exotic in Peru, you can try alpaca meat. These animals are bred in remote regions of the country for the sake of wool. Their meat is tough and has a specific smell, so it is not very popular. Poor people eat it.
Meat of guinea pigs is also considered to be the food of the poor. In the Andes, they are bred for food right in their homes. Gutted animal carcasses are fried to a crust in a large amount of hot fat, and then served with potatoes or rice.
Dishes from fresh oysters, shrimps, octopuses, squid, tuna and other seafood in the country are available to everyone, because the waters of the Peruvian current bring tons of fish and seafood to its shores every day. They are used for making salads, soups, main courses. The most famous delicacy here is the ceviche fish platter.
Peruvian cuisine abounds in fish and seafood dishes.
National dishes of Peru
The dishes that are offered to tourists in local cafes, restaurants and on street mobile carts will help to feel the flavor of the national cuisine of Peru.
The main ingredient of Lomo Saltado is beef marinated in soy sauce and wine vinegar. It is cut into thin strips and fried in plenty of olive oil along with potatoes, red onions, tomatoes and bell peppers. At the end of cooking, season the dish with garlic, black pepper and chili, and sprinkle with cilantro before serving. Boiled rice is a garnish for lomo saltado.
Pope a la Huancayo
This traditional Peruvian dish is made with a special variety of potatoes, whose tubers are bright yellow. They are cut into several pieces, then stewed in a thick sauce consisting of cream cheese, hot yellow pepper and vegetable oil. The recipe for this sauce was invented by the inhabitants of the city of Huancayo, after which the dish got its name.
Dad eats cold. The dish is served along with lettuce, boiled eggs and olives.
It is impossible to visit Peru and not try ceviche. The country has a cult of this fish dish; it is served in all catering establishments and has many cooking options.
Ceviche is the most popular national dish in Peru.
Ceviche is freshly caught fish of different varieties cut into thin slices, marinated in lime juice and mixed with onions, hot spices and herbs. Sometimes boiled seafood (black scallops, oysters, shrimps, etc.) is added to the dish.
Properly prepared ceviche has a sour-spicy, slightly pungent taste and a light citrus aroma. It is served with sweet potatoes, banana chips and popcorn as a side dish.
To make this hearty dish, rice is mixed with green onions and eggs, and then fried in plenty of thick soy sauce. When the main ingredient takes on a golden hue, chili and other spices are added to the dishes.
Fried rice is rarely a separate dish. It is served with vegetables, mushrooms, fish or meat.
You can enjoy barbecue in the stalls of street vendors. A dish is prepared from different types of meat, but most often from veal.
Previously, pieces of meat are kept in a marinade made from vinegar, lemon juice and spices. Then they are strung on skewers, alternating with tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, sausages and onions, and fried over an open fire until the meat becomes tender and juicy.
Peruvians eat kebabs with potato dishes, vegetable salads and fried corn.
The basis for these fragrant donuts is yeast dough, which is made with sweet potato or pumpkin puree instead of flour. The confectionery is in the shape of a ring. They are deep-fried and then poured with a sauce made from cinnamon, cloves, cane sugar, orange peel and hot pepper.
Everyone in Peru loves fragrant and plump fried donuts. They are a common street food.
Arroz con poyo
The basis of the dish is rice. It is mixed with chunks of chicken, saffron and oily vegetables, and then fried in a spicy garlic-tomato sauce with cilantro. Sometimes arroz kon poyo is supplemented with shrimp and other seafood. Traditionally, the dish is served with potatoes.
The people of the mountainous regions of Peru are proud of their signature dish – the rocoto stuffed with red pepper. This vegetable is characterized by strong pungency. To reduce it, cooks keep the peppers in a special marinade. When ready to eat, it is stuffed with pieces of pork, onions, garlic, butter and cream. Vegetarians put beans or mushrooms in the filling instead of meat. Then the pepper is poured with tomato and wine sauce, sprinkled with cheese and baked. The finished dish is garnished with fresh herbs and served with potatoes.
Pachamanca is meat of a cow, pig, ram, alpaca or chicken baked in a stone oven or pit under a fire. Extremists can try guinea pig pachamanca. Vegetables and beans are placed along with the main ingredient in the oven or pit.
Pachamanca is a national Peruvian festive meat dish.
Thanks to the special method of cooking, the meat is so tender and soft that it practically does not need to be chewed.
This traditional Peruvian food is a closed pie made from potato dough to which hot peppers and lime juice are added for piquancy. The filling is made with meat, fried onions, and butter sauce. Fish is used in some regions.
Kausu limenya is consumed cold. When served, it is garnished with olives, corn and avocado slices.
What Peruvians Eat Daily
The daily diet of the population is made up of potatoes, corn and other products familiar to Peruvians. Eating in most families consists of rice, potatoes (sometimes a bean stew is served instead), meat or fish. All meals are nutritious, high in calories and delicious.
Snacks in Peru can be categorized into fish, potato, corn, vegetable, etc.
A common fish appetizer, slightly inferior in popularity to ceviche, is escabeche. To prepare it, Peruvian housewives fry fish fillets until golden brown, after which they immerse them in a hot marinade of vinegar, wine, hot peppers, onions, coriander and bay leaves. Escabeche is eaten after the marinade has cooled.
Escabeche is a cold fish appetizer with onions and peppers.
Juancaina papas are a favorite snack for those who do not like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. It is a jacket potato, which is peeled, cut in half and poured over a thick sauce of butter, processed cheese, cream, milk, pepper and lime juice before use.
On holidays, Peruvians prepare a salad of chicken, crab meat and vegetables. It is poured with a sauce of lemon juice, thick yogurt and spices, after which it is laid out in avocado halves, from which the middle is first scraped out.
Peruvians love soups and make them with almost every food available. The championship in popularity among national dishes in this category is held by:
- Chupe de quinoa. Its main ingredient is quinoa, which is pre-soaked and washed. In addition, fish or seafood, yellow potatoes, corn grains, pumpkin, beans, tomatoes and onions are added to the soup. Chupe de quinoa is prepared in earthenware, seasoned with hot yellow pepper, oregano, paprika, mint and local herbs.
- Chairo. This rich soup is made from any meat that is at hand. Beans, garlic, onions, potatoes (dried and fresh) and celery are added to the broth. Chairo’s secret ingredient is dried lamb.
- Ouarhata. Soup is made from the head of a pig or a ram. It is cooked along with potatoes, cabbage, onions and garlic. It is customary to put spicy tomato sauce and boiled rice next to a plate with uarkhata.
- Sakhta. This thick soup will require portioned chicken, potatoes, quinoa, carrots, beans, and peanuts. To add spice, hot pepper and other spices are added to the sakhta. In some regions, veal is substituted for chicken. In this case, the additional ingredients of the dish will be tomatoes, cheese, red onions and parsley.
Peruvian soups are hearty and healthy.
Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, has become famous far beyond the borders of the country for its signature dish – adobo de cancho pork stew. Local chefs prepare meat according to an ancient tradition, pre-marinating it in home-brewed fermented corn. After that, the pork is stewed in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, oregano and caraway seeds. It is garnished with rice, potatoes and ceviche.
Arroz con pato is a prime example of the chef’s cuisine. The chopped duck is quickly fried in hot oil, and then stewed with rice, vegetables and spices until cooked in an alcoholic drink pisco. Thanks to this method of cooking, the meat is unusually soft and juicy.
Aji de gallina is a variant of Peru’s main course with chicken. The poultry is stewed over low heat in a fragrant sauce made from milk, chopped walnuts, cheese and Aji Amarillo yellow hot pepper. Pieces of ready-made chicken are laid out on a plate and poured over them with the sauce in which it languished. Top the dish is garnished with olives and quarters of hard-boiled eggs.
A favorite Peruvian treat is manhar blanco, a sweet milk paste sold in large cans. In color, it resembles boiled condensed milk, but has a thicker consistency. In Peru, manhar blanco is spread on bread and croissants. In addition, Latin American condensed milk is present in the filling of tech sweets and an interlayer of Alfahores shortbread cookies.
For dessert, Peruvians prepare pies, milk paste, puddings with various fruits and cinnamon.
Besides manhar blanco, the local population is not indifferent to puddings. There are many recipes for unusual sweet desserts in the national cuisine. The most interesting of them is Masamorra Morada. It is a pineapple pudding with dried cherries, black corn, cinnamon, cloves and sweet potato flour.
The local population is not indifferent to chocolate, which is easy to explain, since Peru is a major supplier of cocoa beans to the world market. The most common delicacy brands are Iberica and Helena.
Peru’s national alcoholic drink is pisco. It is a high-grade wine made from a sweet grape variety native to the Pacific coast. The strength of the drink reaches 43%. Peruvians drink pure pisco without diluting it with water. It is also the basis for the pisco sour cocktail, in which Peruvian wine is mixed with lime juice, egg white, sugar syrup, angostura and ice.
Fans of low alcohol drinks drink chicha, a local type of beer. Women do it. They chew cornbread, in which, under the influence of their saliva, starch is converted into sugar and begins to ferment.
Of the soft drinks, chicha-morado is widespread in the country. To obtain it, black corn is boiled with fruits and aromatic spices. Ready chicha morado tastes like mulled wine.
Peruvian fast food
Street food in Peru is common in all regions. In terms of taste, it is not inferior to exquisite restaurant dishes. You can buy ceviche, kebabs, popcorn, rice, hard-boiled quail eggs, etc. on the mobile carts of street vendors.
Often food is prepared in front of customers. All dishes are generously seasoned with aromatic spices, so it is impossible to ignore their smell.
According to tourists, the most delicious street food in Peru are:
- anticuchos – beef heart shashlik;
- pokeros – deep-fried donuts stuffed with pumpkin and honey;
- tamales – banana leaf rolls stuffed with sweet or salted corn;
- pollo a la brasa – grilled chicken;
- choklo con keso – boiled giant corn with salted cheese.
Homemade main course recipes
Some traditional dishes of the country can be prepared from the products available, so it is not at all necessary to look for a Peruvian restaurant or fly to Latin America to taste the food that the descendants of the Incas eat:
- Peruvian potatoes. In salted water, boil peeled and cut potatoes (0.5 kg) into 6-8 parts. It shouldn’t boil too much. When the potatoes are ready, drain off the water. Then prepare the sauce: mix 140 g of grated processed cheese, 50 ml of cream and 40 ml of olive oil, add sautéed onion, 50 ml of lemon juice, spices to taste (preferably chili and black pepper). Arrange the potatoes on plates, pour over the sauce and garnish with lettuce.
- Warm quinoa salad. Soak 200 g of quinoa, cook until tender in 400 ml of salted water. While the porridge is cooking, finely chop 1 onion, 1 bell pepper and a piece of ginger root, then fry them in 2 tbsp. l. olive oil. In the quinoa, add frying, diced fresh cucumber and pitted olives. If desired, the salad can be seasoned with 10-15 ml of soy sauce. Mix all ingredients.
- Veal with rice in a pot. Cut 400 g of meat into small pieces and fry in vegetable oil with onions. Add 200 g of chopped mushrooms, 200 g of white cabbage and 1 bell pepper to the pan. Transfer the fried food to an earthenware pot, add the meat broth seasoned with spices and simmer for 15 minutes. When the time is up, add 100 g of rice cooked until half cooked to the meat and vegetables and simmer for another 15 minutes.
Peruvian cuisine is able to surprise the most capricious gourmets. It has dishes for every taste, so everyone can find in it what best suits their gastronomic preferences.