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I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t do my first post on Peru on Peruvian food. I wouldn’t be true to our trip either, as so much of our experiences on this trip centered around food. We were constantly thinking about the next meal while waiting for the current meal. Peruvian food is so incredibly diverse and has so many influences. We spent a little bit of time on the coast, a lot of time in the Andes, and some time in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, and had an amazing array of Peruvian food. There were some highlights, some lowlights, and even some trigger warnings below.
Happiest Peruvian food moment
Let’s start with my happiest Peruvian food moment: having this giant chuta bread in my possession!
Chuta is only produced in Oropesa, a town roughly 28 km outside of Cusco. That nearly 2-pound round of sweet anise bread only cost 5 soles, or roughly $1.70. It stayed fresh for days, and you bet we got through almost all of it… in between meals. 0_0
Favorite new Peruvian food
While that was my happiest Peruvian food moment, my new favorite Peruvian dish is most definitely palta a la reina, or Peruvian chicken salad with avocados. We had various versions of it during our trip and the avocado lover in me was delighted each and every time. It’s an easy enough dish to make at home as well, though the current avocado prices may hurt the funemployment budget a bit.
Most fascinating Peruvian food learning
As soon as we landed in Lima and hit the roads, I started seeing restaurants with Chinese characters and the word “chifa.” It didn’t take long to understand that it must be some sort of Chinese food, but it took a little googling to understand that chifa is the designation for Peruvian Chinese food, with a basis in Cantonese cuisine and Peruvian ingredients. It’s also one of the most popular cuisines in Peru, so we made sure to try it out. Some of the ingredients were definitely more local, and the flavor was sweeter than expected.
But it was way later in our trip, during our Peruvian cooking class in Cusco, when the biggest learning came: lomo saltado, which we’ve always eaten in the U.S. as a prime example of Peruvian food, is actually a chifa dish. Did you know?
This requires no explanation. They were delicious. I am jealous of my past self.
Trigger warning time
I saved this section for last, and if you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just really love furry animals, this is the time to click away. I promise, it gets a little graphic.
Are you gone yet?
Are you sure you’re ready?
Well, then. One of the delicacies of the Peruvian Andes is alpaca, yes, that furry shorter animal that you thought was a llama. The other is guinea pig.
Alpaca didn’t phase us as much, so we tried it fairly early in our stay in Cusco. The meat is a little gamey; not great, but not bad. We had smoked alpaca ham later on during our trip and felt similar.
The bigger question was whether to try guinea pig, especially when we’d seen so many of these critters during our trip (though admittedly being raised for food).
Finally, on our last day in the Andes, we decided “when in Rome,” and went for it.
LAST TRIGGER WARNING.
Yep, it’s terrifying to look at and it definitely makes you swallow real hard. The restaurant quickly diced it up for us, but we had to ask them to remove the head from our table because there was no way we were going to try it with that horrifying face staring back at us.
While so many people have told us that guinea pig meat is incredibly nutritious and delicious, we just couldn’t get into it. There isn’t that much meat on it, there are a lot of bones, and the skin is sort of tough to chew. One and done, I don’t think we’ll ever be eating guinea pig again.
Other fun facts about Peruvian food
- Peru has more than 3,000 types of potatoes. Fries galore!
- Quinoa used to sell for 2 soles per kilo, but thanks to healthy hipster trends in the West, it now goes for 9-10 soles per kilo.
- Gelatin is huge as a snack. There are the typical fruit flavors, chocolate and vanilla, and such, and there’s that one made from cow legs.
- The traditional drink in the Andes is chicha (de jora), or fermented corn beverage. We tasted the restaurant version, which had a cleaner palate, as well as the home brew, which had a smokier taste. You can find places that sell chicha by looking for doorways that have a long pole sticking out, topped with a bundle of red plastic. The sweet, fruitier version is chicha morada, which is non-alcoholic and made from brewing purple corn.
Cheers to delicious Peruvian food today, tomorrow, and all the time!