Everyone from Forbes to CNN is hailing Peruvian cuisine as a top new trend. Across the country, restaurants like Picca, Mo-Chica and El Misti Picanteria Arequipena in Los Angeles are serving up food from this South American country. Peru is quickly becoming as popular for its cuisine as it is for a rich cultural heritage, amazing Incan ruins and jaw-dropping natural beauty.
From the beaches of Lima to the snow-capped Andes Mountains and the crawling green of the Amazon, Peruvian cuisine offers an incredible collection of food and beverages. Are you brave enough to try it? Use this list to familiarize yourself with Peruvian cuisine, then hit a local Peruvian restaurant, or try cooking a dish at home. Or you could just plan that trip to South America that you’ve always wanted to take!
9 Exotic Staples of Peruvian Cuisine
1. Cuy (Guinea Pig) – While you may not find fried guinea pig on many American menus, the rodent is extremely popular in Peru. Order it fried, grilled or roasted, and prepare yourself for a little meat and a lot of bones. Eat cuy with your hands for best results.
2. Potatoes – The humble potato was first domesticated in Peru, and now the country boasts more than 3,000 varieties along with tuber cousins like oka. Andean potatoes are creamy and feature a richer taste than their North American counterparts. Try them in dishes like papa a la huanciana (pictured above).
3. Ceviche – Thanks to a long coastline and a bounty of fresh seafood, ceviche has reached cult status in Peru. Made with raw fish that’s “cooked” in citrus juice, the delicate dish typically features peppers, onion and sweet potato or corn as well. Peru’s ceviche is often more raw than versions found in other destinations, thanks to a large population of Japanese immigrants and a national fondness for sushi.
4. Aji Pepper (pictured at top) – With a bright color and mild kick, this pepper shows up in all sorts of Peruvian dishes, from ceviche to aji de gallina (hen chili). Many Peruvian specialties take their flavor from the tasty trio of aji peppers, garlic and onion.
5. Quinoa – This grain-like seed is the darling of whole foodies and hipsters, but most don’t realize that quinoa has fueled the Peruvian populace for centuries. Containing essential amino acids, protein, calcium and iron, quinoa is an Andean superfood.
6. Anticuchos – These marinated meat skewers are grilled and available anywhere in Peru, from street corners to upscale restaurants. You’ll find garlic-slathered chunks of beef, beef heart and chicken, usually separated by onions and capped off with a small boiled potato.
7. Pisco Sour – A spirited libation made with egg white, lime juice and pisco (grape brandy), the pisco sour is a must in Peruvian cuisine. Sweet, tart, and knock-your-socks-off strong, you’ll want to sip this rich-bodied cocktail slowly!
8. Chicha – Created from purple corn, this brightly colored beverage can be fermented or not. Historically a sacred drink reserved for Incan royalty, chicha is usually flavored with cloves, cinnamon, pineapple rinds, lemon and sugar.
9. Lucuma – You’ll see this orange fruit in lots of Peruvian cuisine, especially desserts. With an appearance akin to mango, the lucuma tastes sweet like custard and has a soft, mild flesh.
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