Peruvian cuisine reflects local practices and ingredients—including influences from the indigenous population including the Inca and cuisines brought in with immigrants from Europe (Spanish cuisine, Italian cuisine, German cuisine), Asia (Chinese cuisine and Japanese cuisine) and West Africa. Without the familiar ingredients from their home countries, immigrants modified their traditional cuisines by using ingredients available in Peru. [toc]The four traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine are corn, potatoes and other tubers, Amaranthaceaes (Quinoa, Kañiwa and kiwicha) and legumes (beans and lupins). Staples brought by the Spanish include rice, wheat and meats (beef, pork and chicken). Many traditional foods—such as Quinoa, kiwicha, chilli peppers, and several roots and tubers have increased in popularity in recent decades, reflecting a revival of interest in native Peruvian foods and culinary techniques. Chef Gaston Acurio has become well known for raising awareness of local ingredients. The US food critic Eric Asimov has described it as one of the world’s most important cuisines and as an exemplar of fusion cuisine, due to its long multicultural history.
Peru is considered an important centre for the genetic diversity of the world’s crops:
- Potatoes, many varieties of potato are native to the Andes region. Over 99% of all cultivated potatoes worldwide are descendants of a single subspecies, namely Solanum tuberosum. This subspecies has developed into thousands of varieties that vary by size, shape, colour, and other sensory characteristics.
- Quinoa (“Indian” rice), three varieties
- Tawri, a legume native to the Andes which is similar to the Lupin bean
- Lima bean
- Oca, a potato-like tuber
- Mashua, a potato-like tuber
- Ulluco, a potato-like tuber
- Caigua, a vegetable with a cucumber like taste
- Capsicum baccatum chilli peppers, including Aji Amarillo and Ají Limo
- Capsicum pubescens, Rocoto chilli pepper
- Capsicum chinense, Ají Panca
- Fruits — Peru has about 20 native fruits that are used in cooking or eaten fresh
The sweet potato is native to Central America and was domesticated there at least 5,000 years ago. The much lower molecular diversity found in Peru and Ecuador suggests that the sweet potato was introduced there from Central America. Only two varieties of sweet potato are commonly available for sale in Peru. One has dry orange flesh and light tan skin and tastes sweet. The other has purple skin, is white and brown inside, and is only moderately sweet. Occasionally another variety, characterised by small tubers and dark skin, is available. Potatoes are available in more variety. The two most common potatoes are a white flesh type and a more expensive yellow flesh type. The only commercially available native fruits native to the Andes region in general (Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia) are lucuma, camu camu, prickly pear, cape gooseberry, cocona, pacay (technically a legume but used as a fruit), guanabana, dragon fruit, pepino, papaya, ciruela, mammee apple, banana passionfruit, cherimoya, granadilla, moriche palm fruit, and tamarillo. Yacon, although an underground tuber, is also used as a fruit. None of the other native fruits are commercially available.
From Peru, the Spanish brought back to Europe several foods that would become staples for many peoples around the world.
- Potatoes: Potatoes were introduced to Europe from Latin America. They were considered livestock feed in Europe until French chemist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier began serving dishes made from the tubers at his lavish banquets. His guests were immediately convinced that potatoes were fit for human consumption. Parmentier’s introduction of the potato is still discussed in Europe today. The varieties used in Europe and most of the world, however, derive from a subspecies indigenous to south-central Chile, namely Solanum tuberosum.
- Beans: Several varieties of the common bean are native to Latin America including the lima bean.
The varieties of chilli peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and maize that the Spanish brought back to Europe, however, were not native to Peru:
- Peppers: Chilli peppers are native to America. The varieties most commonly used around the world, however, derive from Mexico and Central America. Sweet Peppers are native to Mexico and Central America. Peruvian Ají peppers are virtually unknown outside of the Andean region of South America.
- Maize: Maize (“Indian” corn), is native to Mesoamerica and was introduced into Peru from that region. The varieties used in Europe and most of the world are from Central America. The corn grown in Peru is not sweet and has very large grains and is not popular outside of Latin America.
- Tomatoes: The tomato is native to Mesoamerica. This is evidenced by the great number of varieties available in that region. In contrast, Peru only has two varieties that are currently available commercially, namely the common Globe and Plum Tomato.
Many foods from Spain are now considered Peruvian staples, including wheat, barley, oats, rice, lentils, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), broad beans, garlic, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, onions, cucumbers, carrots, celery, lettuce, eggplant, wine, vinegar, olives, beef, pork, chicken, numerous spices (including coriander, cumin, parsley, cilantro (green coriander), laurel, mint, thyme, marjoram, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise (fennel), black pepper and oregano), bananas, quince, apples, oranges, limes, apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, melons, figs, pomegranates, honey, white sugar, almonds, walnuts, cheese, hen eggs, cow’s milk, etc. Many foods plants popular in Spain, however, were not imported to Peru or failed to grow due to climatic conditions. These include lemons, turnips, kale, and chestnuts.
Fresh and dried “aji” are at the heart of Peruvian cooking and are one of the oldest cultivated plants in the Americas. Common varieties are:
Aji amarillo Translating as “yellow chilli”, this is regarded by many as perhaps the most important ingredient in Peruvian cooking. Prized for their citrus aroma and flavour, and their vibrant yellow hue, these hot chillies are commonly sold fresh but are also available as a paste or ground. Aji amarillo are used in salsas, sauces, soups and stews, namely salsa huancaina and aji de gallina.
Aji panca A mild dried dark chilli with a smoky, slightly fruity taste. Most commonly sold dried or as a paste. Used in sauces, stews and marinades.
Aji miraso Sun-dried aji Amarillo, or “chillies looking at the sun”, these have a distinctive fruity flavour and are best described as a cross between aji amarillo and aji panca. Used in marinades and sauces.
A staple of the Incas, the ancient grain has, in recent times, gained widespread “superfood” status, being the most complete protein of all the grains. It is also higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbohydrates than most others. Quinoa is easy to digest and has a subtle, slightly nutty flavour that provides the perfect vehicle for bold sauces and stews. Cultivars include white (or golden), red and black. Red and black quinoa takes slightly longer to cook than white.
A staple first cultivated in Peru as far back as 1200 BC, corn is as important to the modern Peruvians as it was to their ancestors. It’s found in more than 50 varieties, including yellow, white, purple, black and red, and prepared in countless ways, including ground to make breads or sweet and savoury humitas, steamed and served as an accompaniment, or dried and served as a snack (cancha).
There’s no doubt the Peruvians love their spuds. More than 2000 varieties are cultivated in Peru, many of those being native to the Andes. Potatoes can be freeze dried and added to soups and stews, made into chips or take centre stage in a papa al huancaina salad. While not technically a potato, cassava is another favoured tuber and is used to make a version of cassava al huancaina.
Pronounced “waa-kah-tie” and also known as black mint, this Peruvian native tastes like a cross between mint and basil, with a slight anise flavour. It is central to much Andean cooking, the leaves being ground to a paste and used to flavour sauces, soups and stews or used as a condiment. Available in jars from Latin food stores. See Huacatay in the glossary.
During the colonial period, and continuing up until the time of the Second World War, Peruvian cuisine focused on Spanish models and virtually ignored anything that could be regarded as native or Indian. Traditional food plants, which the indigenous people continued to eat, were regarded as “peasant food” to be avoided. These colonial attitudes took a long time to fade. Since the 1970s, there has been an effort to bring these native food plants out of obscurity.
Some plants cultivated by ancient societies of Peru have been rediscovered by modern Peruvians, and are carefully studied by scientists. Due to the characteristics of its land and climate and the nutritional quality of its products, some Peruvian plants may play a vital role in future nutrition. Examples include quinoa (an excellent source of essential amino acids) and kañiwa, which look and cook like cereals but are pseudocereals. Nutritionists are also studying root vegetables, such as maca and, cereals like kiwicha.
For many of Peru’s inhabitants, these food stocks allow for adequate nutrition, even though living standards are poor. Abandoning many of these staples during the Spanish domination and republican eras lowered nutritional levels. Since 1985, NASA has used some of these foods — quinoa, kiwicha and maca — for astronaut meals.
Peruvian cuisine is often made spicy with ají pepper, a basic ingredient. Peruvian chilli peppers are not spicy but serve to give taste and colour to dishes. Rice often accompanies dishes in Peruvian cuisine, and the regional sources of foods and traditions give rise to countless varieties of preparation and dishes.
Peru is a country that holds not just a variety of ethnic mixes since times ranging from the Inca Empire, the Viceroyalty and the Republic, but also a climatic variety of 28 individual climates. The mixing of cultures and the variety of climates differ from city to city so geography, climate, culture and ethnic mix determine the variety of local cuisine.
The cuisine of the coast can be said to have five influences. The indigenous cuisine of its native peoples was augmented by ingredients and cooking techniques introduced by its immigrants and colonizers: those from Spain, Japan, Morocco, England, and the Han Chinese.
The Pacific Ocean is the principal source of aquatic resources for Peru. Peru is one of the world’s top two producers and exporters of unusually high-protein fishmeal for use in livestock/aquaculture feed. Its richness in fish and other aquatic life is enormous, and many oceanic plant and animal species can only be found in Peru. As important as the Pacific is to Peru’s biodiversity, freshwater biomes such as the Amazon River and Lake Titicaca also play a large role in the ecological make-up of the country.
Every coastal region, being distinct in flora and fauna populations, adapts its cuisine in accordance to the resources available in its waters.
Ceviche, a South American dish of marinated raw fish or seafood typically garnished with herbs and served as an appetizer, with many variations (pure, combination, or mixed with fish and shellfish), provides a good example of regional adaptation. Ceviche is found in almost all Peruvian restaurants on the coast, typically served with camote, or sweet potato. Often spelled “cebiche” in Peru, it is the flagship dish of coastal cuisine, and one of the most popular dishes among Peruvians. It consists of Andean chilli peppers, onions and acidic aromatic lime, a variety brought by the Spaniards. A spicy dish, it consists generally of bite-size pieces of white fish (such as corvina or white sea bass), marinated raw in lime juice mixed with chillies. Ceviche is served with raw onions, boiled sweet potatoes (camote), toasted corn (cancha), and sometimes a local green seaweed yuyo. Tiradito is a related dish that shows the influence of Japanese immigrants and sashimi techniques. Many Peruvians believe that ceviche is a hangover cure and an aphrodisiac. Unlike ceviche from Mexico and Ecuador, it does not have tomatoes, and unlike that of Tahiti it does not use coconut milk, though both are abundant in Peru. A variation available in Callao replaces mango for fish. Leche de tigre (tiger’s milk), is the Peruvian colloquial name for the juice produced from the ingredients of ceviche. It has a light spicy flavour.
Chupe de camarones (shrimp cioppino) is one of the most popular dishes of Peruvian coastal cuisine. It is made from a thick freshwater shrimp (crayfish) stock soup, potatoes, milk and chilli pepper. It is regularly found in Peruvian restaurants specializing in Arequipan cuisine.
A centre of immigration and centres of the Spanish Viceroyalty, Lima and Trujillo have incorporated unique dishes brought from the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors and the subsequent waves of immigrants: African, European, Chinese, and Japanese. Besides international immigration—a large portion of which happened in Lima—there has been, since the second half of the 20th century, a strong internal flow from rural areas to cities, in particular to Lima. This has strongly influenced Lima’s cuisine with the incorporation of the immigrants’ ingredients and techniques (for example, the Chinese extensive use of rice or the Japanese approach to preparing raw fish).
Creole cuisine is the most widespread in this cosmopolitan city. The only major international cuisines with a large presence are Chinese (known locally as chifa) and Italian. These, however, have been heavily modified due to a shortage or lack of authentic ingredients.
The city’s bakeries are quite popular with Peruvians. One may find Peruvians standing in line in almost every bakery waiting for freshly baked white bread from 6 to 9 am and from 4 to 6 pm. The majority of Peruvians tend to eat bread for breakfast along with coffee or tea. Almost all bread in Peru, with the exception of baguettes, is fortified with added fats, such as lard. Whole wheat bread is extremely hard to find in the major cities, but more common (and often cheaper) in rural towns. Many bakeries sell white bread sprinkled with bran for health conscious customers as whole wheat flour is extremely hard to find. However, even this bread is often heavily fortified with lard, shortening or butter. Authentic whole wheat bread is imported from Europe and sold at upscale grocery stores. A few coastal cities bakeries produce “bollos,” which are loaves of bread baked in stone and wood-ovens from the Andes.
- Anticuchos are brochettes made from beef heart marinated in a various Peruvian spices and grilled, often with a side of boiled potato or corn. They are commonly sold by street vendors and served shish kabob-style, but one may find them in creole food restaurants.
- Also frequently sold by street vendors are tamales: boiled corn with meat or cheese and wrapped in a banana leaf. They are similar to Humitas, which consist of corn mixed with spices, sugar, onions, filled with pork and olives and finally wrapped in the leaves of corn husks. Tamales are a common breakfast food, often served with lima and/or “Salsa Criolla.”
- Another favourite food found in many restaurants is Papa a la huancaina (Huancayo-style potatoes), a dish consisting of sliced boiled potatoes, served on a bed of lettuce with a slightly spicy cheese sauce with olives. The dish is cheap to make and uses ingredients that are readily available in Peru, yet is has complex flavours and textures so is very popular with chefs in restaurants in Peru. This combination of being cheap to make, yet favoured by chefs, has helped Papa a la Huancaina become popular across all classes of Peruvian society. The name of the dish suggests it is from Huancayo, however it is actually from Chosica, in Lima, and made by a “Huancaina” (a person from Huancayo).
- Tacu-tacu: Mixture of beans and rice, fried, and topped with breaded and pan-fried steak and an onion salsa.
- Papa Rellenas (stuffed potatoes) – Mashed potatoes stuffed with ground (minced) meat, eggs, olives and various spices and then deep fried.
- Arroz tapado (covered rice): uses the same stuffing of papa rellena, but rather than used as a stuffing, it is accompanied by rice.
- Pollo a la Brasa (grilled chicken or roasted chicken): is one of the most consumed foods in Peru. It’s basically a gutted chicken marinated in a marinade that includes various Peruvian ingredients, baked in hot ashes or on a spit-roast. The origins of the recipe for this dish date back to Lima, the capital of Peru, during the 1950s. Two Swiss citizens who were Peruvian residents, Roger Shuler and Franz Ulrich, invented and registered the patent (1950) for the machine to cook the chicken on the grill, a mechanical system of planetary rotation in that the chickens rotating on its axis and over a central axis, simultaneously. The dish comes with French fried potatoes, salad and various creams (Peruvian mayonnaise, ketchup, olive sauce, chimichurri and aji (chilli) sauces of all kinds). There are many famous brands of “Pollo a la Brasa” restaurant in Peru and particularly in Lima, the most famous and popular being Hikari, Norky’s, Roky’s and La Leña.
- Sancochado is a hearty beef and vegetable broth that includes yuca (cassava) and potatoes.
- A local staple found in many cheaper, as well as more up-market, restaurants is Lomo Saltado, sliced beef (if made from the tenderloin it is “lomo fino”) stir fried with onion, tomato, soy sauce, vinegar, chilli (aji) and served or mixed with French fried potatoes (aka “chips”), and accompanied with rice.
- Lima has an abundance of Peruvian-style Chinese restaurants or “chifas” as they are known locally; indeed, arroz chaufa or Chinese style rice is one of the frequently sampled dishes that has found its way into Peruvian cuisine.
- Arroz con pollo, or rice with chicken, is enjoyed for its rich-flavoured rice combined with chicken.
- Chupe de pescado or fish cioppino is popular in Lima and along the coast.
- Lima bean salad – A salad made with Lima butter beans (called pallares in Perú), cooked (but still whole) and mixed (when cooled) with a mixture of onions, slices of tomatoes, and green ají (chilli), marinated in green Peruvian lime juice, oil, salt, and vinegar. Lima butter beans (pallares) have been part of the Peruvian cuisine for at least 6,000 years.
- Butifarras, also known as Jamon del Pais, is a sandwich with “Peruvian ham”, sliced onions, sliced chilli peppers, lime, salt, pepper, oil, in a type of white bread roll.
- Causa, in its basic form, is a mashed yellow potato dumpling mixed with key lime, onion, chilli and oil. Varieties can have avocado, chicken, tuna (typically canned) or even shellfish added to the mixture. Also, causa is popular in Lima, where it is distinguished by the name Causa Limeña. Causa is usually served cold with hard boiled eggs and olives.
- Carapulcra is an appetizing stewed dish of pork and chicken, dried potatoes, red chillies, peanuts and cumin. The version from the Afro-Peruvian Ica region uses fresh potatoes.
- Empanadas (meat turnovers) were introduced by the Spanish during the colonial period, and later modified, possibly due to lack of Spanish ingredients (olive oil, codfish, smoked paprika, etc.). In Peru, they are filled either with chicken, beef, or cheese. Olives, and sometimes hard boiled eggs and raisins give them a unique taste.
- Ají de gallina (chilli chicken) consists of thin strips of chicken served with a creamy yellow and spicy sauce, made with ají amarillo (yellow chillies), cheese, milk, bread. Occasionally walnuts are added on special occasions or at upscale restaurants due to its prohibitive cost in Peru. Traditionally the meat is from non-laying hens, but today almost exclusively made from more tender chickens.
- Escabeche criollo (pickled fish): “Escabeche” when the word is used alone normally refers to fish escabeche. Other varieties can use duck or chicken. The escabeche dishes rely in the cooking on the heavy use of vinegar and onions together with other spices and chilli.
- Cau cau is a meal consisting of mondongo or tripe stew and accompanied by rice. There are a number of versions of Cau-Cau. In general cau-cau is a style of cooking being there seafood cau-cau, shellfish cau-cau, etc. Two noteworthy styles are the creole style simply called Tripe Cau-Cau, and the Italo-Peruvian style. The creole is made with strips of previously cooked tripe, seasoned by a mixture of sautéed onions, garlic, yellow aji, a pinch of turmeric, salt and pepper and chunks of boiled potatoes. The mixed is allowed to cook together to blend the tastes and acquire consistency. It is then sprinkled with spearmint or mint. The other common version is the “Italian” style. It consists of strips of precooked tripe sautéed with a mixture of red onions, peeled tomatoes, tomato paste and dried mushrooms (Porcini). After the flavours blend it is seasoned with parsley and mixed with fried potato strips just prior to serving. Some chefs add a few tablespoons of wine or pisco following the sauté step. These recipes may have African and Chinese influence as well as Italian.
- Chicharrones is salted pork deep-fried in its own fat. There are at least two kinds of chicharrones: pork skins, and country style ribs that are first boiled, then rendered in their own fat until they brown into chicharrones. Other types of chicharrones including deep fried squid, and other seafood. They can be served at breakfast, or any time of day.
The cuisine of the northern coast offers a difference in style from the central and southern varieties. This is not only due to the coastal native Indian influence (less Andean), the Spanish influence, the African; but also to the warmer coastal seas, hotter climate and immense geographical latitude variety.
The widely different climates between Tumbes, Piura, Lambayeque, La Libertad, Cajamarca and San Martin contribute to the variety of dishes in these areas.
Northern Style Dishes:
- Shambar is a soup made with wheat, pork rinds, “Jamon Serrano” (smoked ham), assorted beans, and green onions. It is served with toasted corn (cancha) and is made only on Mondays.
- Seco de Cabrito (goat stew, but goat is often substituted by lamb, chicken, or beef) is made in a pot after marinating with chicha de jora (beer made with corn) and spices including fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) and garlic. This is most popular in the northern coast especially in Cajamarca and Lambayeque.
- Seco de Chavelo (typically from Catacaos – Piura) is a type of seco that is made of cecina stewed and dried meat that has been clotted and dried along with bananas, yuca, aji panca (Capsicum chinense) and the addition of Clarito (from Chicha de Jora the Piurano style).
- Cebiche de Conchas Negras (ceviche with black shells) is a dish of Piura and Tumbes is also popular along the southern coast of Ecuador due to Peruvian influence. In this version of ceviche, the seafood used in the dish should be black clams accompanied by toasted corn.
In the valleys and plains of the Andes, the locals’ diet is still based on corn (maíze), potatoes, and an assortment of tubers as it has been for hundreds of years. Meat comes from indigenous animals like alpacas and guinea pigs, but also from imported livestock like sheep, cattle and swine.
As with many rural cultures, most of the more elaborate dishes were reserved for festivities, while daily meals were simple affairs. Nowadays, festive dishes are consumed every day by urban dwellers, though they tend to be on the heavy side and demand a large appetite, while rural diets tend to be light on meat and heavy on lahua gruel.
The pachamanca is a very special banquet in and of itself. Cooked all over the Andean region of Peru, is made from a variety of meats (including pork and beef), herbs and a variety of vegetables that are slowly cooked underground on a bed of heated stones. It demands skilful cooks to create and a large number of guests to consume. Because of its tedious preparation it is normally only done for celebrations or festivals in the Andes, though recent years have seen the appearance of many “campestre” restaurants outside Lima where urban families can escape to spend an afternoon in the fresh air eating pachamanca. Such as in Cieneguilla. Andean cooking’s main freshwater fish is the trout, raised in fisheries in the region.
- Cuy chactado: A dish more popular in the highlands is this meal of fried guinea pig. Often the indigenous women of the Peruvian Andes will raise the guinea pigs in their huts where they run around loose on the floors of the dwellings. Prior to consumption they can reach a surprisingly large size. Besides the use of guinea pigs as separate meals, they are often cooked in a Pachamanca with other meats and vegetables.
- Olluquito con charqui is another traditional Andean dish. Olluco is a yellowish tuber (Ullucus tuberosus) domesticated by pre-Inca populations, and is visually similar to colourful small Andean potatoes, but with a distinct crunchy texture when cooked. Charqui is the technique employed in the Andean highlands to cure meat by salting, then dehydration. Incidentally the word “jerky” in English is derived from this Andean (Qechuan) word. The dish is a stew of finely diced ollucos with charqui pieces (traditionally alpaca, or less frequently llama meat, though today it is also very commonly made from sheep), served with white rice.
- Rocoto relleno: Arequipa dish made from stuffed rocoto chillies. Rocotos are one of the very hot (spicy) chillies of Peru. In this dish they are stuffed with spiced beef or pork, onions, olives, egg white and then cooked in the oven with potatoes covered with cheese and milk.
- Tocosh or Togosh is a traditional Quechua food prepared from fermented potato pulp.
- Puka Pikanti: Ayacucho dish made from white potatoes, beets, yellow chilli pepper, mint, and peanuts.
Main article: Amazonian cuisine
Naturally, Amazonian cuisine is made using the products local to the Amazon rainforest. Although many animal species are hunted for food in the biologically diverse jungle, standouts are the paiche (one of the world’s largest freshwater fish), prepared in variety of dishes; many other types of fish like gamitana, sabalo, tucunare, boquichico, palometa, bagre, and many others including the piranha, that are prepared in variety of dishes such as “timbuche” (soup) or “patarashca” (grilled in vegetables); many types of turtles like the motelo (land turtle), and the charapa and taricaya (river turtles). Hunting turtles is prohibited in Peru, therefore turtle-based dishes are scarce and expensive and not sold à la carte in restaurants. Other animals include the majas, the sajino, the agouti, and jungle mammals, which are called collectively “carne de monte”. The Black Caiman is also considered a delicacy; but its hunt is forbidden under Peruvian law.
Among the fruits of Peru’s jungle is the camu camu, which contains 40 times more vitamin C than the kiwifruit. Non-native fruits such as mango and pineapple and star apple are also in abundance, as well as other jungle fruits like, mammee apple, cherimoya, guanabana, taperiva, copoazu, dry fruits like the aguaje and the hungurahui.
- Juane is rice seasoned with turmeric, and chicken wrapped in banana leaves.
- Chapo is a beverage made with sweet plantain.
Other Regional Dishes
- Chalona or Charqui is a cured dried meat originally obtained from alpaca. It is also eaten in Bolivia, and was presumably eaten by the Indians in Southern Peru and Bolivia before the arrival of the Spanish. Today lamb is often substituted for alpaca meat. It is used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes of the Puno region, Cusco, and Arequipa. It is prepared using recently cured lamb, in which furrows are made with a knife so the salt can penetrate. Salt penetration is important, because it determines how long the cured meat lasts. The meat is left to dry in the sun and cold nights for almost one month.
- Chairo: A traditional soup of the Puno and Arequipa regions. It origins have been traced to the Collan Indians who live in the Andes of Bolivia and southern Peru. The soup consists of black chuño, aji panca (red chilli pepper), sweet potatoes, sheep tripe and chalona.
- Ocopa: A dish with some similarities to Papas a la Huancaina. It consists of boiled and sliced yellow potatoes covered with a sauce of made of aji (chilli pepper), the Peruvian herb Tagetes minuta, (called huacatay; the herb gives it a vivid green colour), ground peanuts, and fresh or white cheese, with sides of lettuce, boiled eggs and olives. At expensive restaurants walnuts are often added, but this is seldom done in Peruvian homes due to the prohibitive cost of walnuts in Peru. The name ocopa is also used to refer to the hot sauce by itself (Salsa de Ocopa). Copús is one of the best known dishes of Piura. Its ingredients are ripe fried bananas, camotes (sweet potatoes), and seasoned hen, turkey, goat, and mutton. The meat is cooked in a furnace under the ground; this method is different from using a pachamanca since the furnace is covered with blankets and clay.
- Yuca chupe or cassava soup is one of the variations in which the Peruvians enjoy cassava.
- Currently, ostrich meat is being raised on farms in Arequipa, although its consumption is not widespread and limited to urban areas.
- Sangrecita, chicken blood dish
- Crema de tarwi (tarwi soup): Tarwi is a vegetable native to the mountains of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. In addition to its use in soup, tarwi is used in much of Peruvian cuisine, including sancochado. Fresh tarwi can be used in stews, purees, sauces, desserts and in a variation of cebiche. In some areas, locals call it chocho. Its cultivation has recently expanded to all the countries of the Andean region. In Peru, it is principally grown in the areas of Cajamarca, Ancash, the Mantaro Valley, Ayacucho, Cusco, and Puno.
- Tarwi can also be found in beverages (such as papaya juice with tarwi flour). Tarwi has been shown to have higher vegetable protein content than soy. In pre-Incan and Incan times, it was an important part of the mostly vegetarian diet of the region. It was consumed with small quantities of meat and dried fish, providing an abundant source of protein for the population. Tarwi seeds have been found in Nazca tombs and in representations of Tiahuanaco ceramics.
Main article: Chifa
Chifa is the Peruvian term for Chinese food (or for a Chinese restaurant). Because many Chinese ingredients are hard to find in Peru, the Chinese modified their cuisine and incorporated many Peruvian elements (mainly Spanish, native and African) into their cuisine. Even today, it is difficult to find authentic Chinese cuisine in Peru. This is mainly due to popularity of the hybridization of Chinese food, which is commonly called “Chifa,” and a lack of many Chinese ingredients.
In downtown Lima, on Capón Street, is the barrio chino (Chinatown). This is the main area in Peru where one can find a limited selection of authentic Chinese ingredients imported from China. Even in this area, however, it is very difficult to find a restaurant that serves authentic Chinese dishes such as Mapo doufu.
Some Creole dishes such as Lomo Saltado and arroz chaufa were influenced by the Chinese and are commonly served at Chifa restaurants.
Sweet Dishes and Desserts
- Alfajores: a dessert found in virtually all of Spain’s former colonies. It is derived from the versions popular in Spain during the colonial period. The original Spanish recipes, however, have been modified because the original ingredients are expensive in Peru (almonds, honey) or even unobtainable (hazelnuts, lemon rind, coriander seed, etc.). The basic recipe uses a base mix of flour, key lime rind, margarine, and powdered sugar, which is oven-baked. Alfajores consist of two or more layers of this baked pastry, and is usually filled with either manjar blanco (a caramel-coloured, sweet, creamy filling made with milk and sugar) or molasses.
- Turrones (or nougat) is another originally Spanish dessert. The original Spanish recipe, which contained ingredients that were rare or expensive in Peru (such as almonds, rose water, orange blossom water, honey) was modified in a variety of ways. One common variety found in Lima is Turrón de Doña Pepa, an anise and honey nougat that is traditionally prepared for the Señor de los Milagros (or Lord of Miracles) religious procession, during October.
- Almost exclusive to the Andes region is the fruit known as lúcuma. Lúcuma juice, ice cream, and corresponding lúcuma shakes are very popular throughout Peru. Lúcuma ice cream can normally only be found in large US cities (typically in Peruvian restaurants). One popular brand of ice cream in Peru is D’Onofrio, which is owned by Nestlé.
- Arroz con leche (rice pudding): Another dessert originally from Spain that can be found in various varieties throughout Latin America. Arroz con leche is one of the more common desserts found in homes and restaurants of modern-day Peru. It consists primarily of cooked rice, cinnamon/nutmeg, raisins, and milk. Because lemons are not available in Peru, rice pudding never has lemon rind as is traditional in the Spanish version. Arroz con leche is usually eaten with Peruvian Mazamorra (jelly-like clove-favoured dessert). Helados (ice cream): The most common ice cream flavours found in Peru are lucuma, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. Some more exotic flavours such as camu camu, guaraná and Prickly Pear can occasionally be found. For other commonly available flavours, however, one needs to purchase imported ice-cream as many of the ingredients are not available in Peru. Peru is one of few countries in the world where the third most popular ice-cream (after vanilla and chocolate) is not strawberry, it is in fact the “nutty” flavoured, orange coloured lúcuma, which is an exotic fruit grown in quantity only in Peru, and only in recent years being exported in very limited quantities as an exotic flavour (for ice cream and savoury sauces) to the USA, and available in Europe essentially in food shows.
- Mazamorra morada: Is a jelly-like clove-flavoured dessert. It takes on the colour of one of its main ingredients: purple maize. A variety of purple corn (maíz morado) that only grows in Peru adds colour to the water it’s boiled in, along with cinnamon cloves. When the water cools, chopped fruit, key lime and sugar are added. The mixture is served as a beverage called “chicha morada”.
- Picarones: a sweet, ring-shaped fritter with a pumpkin base; often served with molasses syrup. Picarones were created during the colonial period to replace the Spanish dessert Buñuelos, as buñuelos were too expensive to make (They had an egg custard filling) and some ingredients were unavailable (lemon rinds). Peruvian Picarones are made of squash or pumpkin dough and sweetened with chancaca, raw cane sugar melted into a syrup.
- Tejas: another modified Spanish dessert. The original Spanish version contained ingredients that were prohibitively expensive in Peru, such as almonds. The Peruvian version of this candy is filled with manjar blanco and coated with a fondant-like shell. Some are also made with a chocolate shell (chocoteja).
- King Kong: is made of cookies (made from flour, butter, eggs and milk), filled with milk candy, some pineapple sweet and in some cases peanuts, with cookies within its layers. It is sold in one-half and one kilogram sizes. It is known as part of the culture of Lambayeque Region.
- Suspiro de Limeña – Another Spanish-influenced dessert that uses dulce de leche, which derives from the Spanish Blancmange. The bottom layer is made of dulce de leche enriched with egg yolks. The top layer consists of meringue made with port wine. This classic criollo dessert is said to have been named by the famous Peruvian poet and author José Gálvez whose wife doña Amparo Ayarez was famous for her cooking. When asked what inspired the name, he reportedly replied, “Because it is soft and sweet, like the sigh of a woman.” In this case, it would be a woman from Lima, a Limeña.
The most commonly encountered soft drinks in Peru are:
- Chicha Morada: a clove flavoured beverage prepared from a base of boiled purple maize and a generous amount of powdered cloves, to which sugar, cinnamon and ice are added as it cools. Occasionally chunks of pineapple are added. The taste is reminiscent of old fashioned clove flavoured candy. Chicha de jora is a beer made with corn (see below)
- Inca Kola: a lemon grass flavoured soda (gaseosa), which is a cultural icon, served on the most humble to the most exclusive tables nationwide, alone or with any type of food. Yellow in colour, it is very sweet (with a candy-like taste). Inca Kola is the only national beverage in the world that beat worldwide Coca-Cola in sales, mainly due to nationalism prevalent among Peruvians, and an advertising campaign that capitalized on the fact that Inca Kola is a Peruvian product. In 1997, however, Coca-Cola acquired 49 percent of the Inca Kola company. Although exported to various countries, Inca Kola has not enjoyed major success elsewhere.
- Kola Inglesa: a cherry flavoured red soda introduced in 1912, named after its English creator, Erin Stone.
- Kola Escocesa: a purple soda very traditional in the city of Arequipa. The beverage is produced since the 1950s using mineral water.
Less common are:
- Refresco de camu camu: Refrescos are juices of various flavours mixed with water and sugar and often served with the set menu of the day at smaller restaurants. Besides camu camu, there are more common flavours such as orange. Pure juices, such as orange juice or grape juice are seldom encountered in Peru due to their expense.
- Té de uña de gato: a tea made from a plant from the Amazon, cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa), which is consumed for its supposed healing or medicinal properties.
Pisco, a kind of brandy, is the national drink of Peru. It originated during the colonial period as a then, cheaper substitute for the Spanish liquor known as Orujo. Nevertheless Orujo is a product made from the spoils of wine production, Pisco, in the other hand, uses fresh grapes very much as wine does. This distilled beverage made from grapes is produced in various regions of the country. Pisco Sour is a cocktail made from pisco combined with key lime juice, the white of an egg and sugar. Chilcano also made with Pisco, is a very refreshing cocktail as well.
Wines come from many different regions of the country, most notably from the Ica Region.
Beer, as in many countries, is popular at all levels of society. Local brands include Pilsen Callao and Cristal. A couple of regional beers are Arequipeña, Cusqueña and Pilsen Trujillo from Arequipa, Cuzco and Trujillo respectively; though Cuzqueña is popular nationwide and is exported worldwide. A common beer drinking ritual among many Peruvian men involves a group sharing one glass. The party holding the bottle waits for the prior person to drink from the glass before receiving that glass, filling it and passing the bottle on to the next in line. While this custom is more common among men of lower echelons of society, people of higher social status, particularly youth and occasionally women, take part in this custom.
Chicha de jora is another well-known drink, based on different varieties of fermented maize and different aromatic herbs, depending on the region of the country. Its consumption is mostly limited to the Andes area.