What I ate in Peru.

Serving size may vary.

I feel like a bit of a fraud writing any kind of travel food post, since I am anything but an adventurous eater (my favorite foods as a child were hot dogs and baked beans, to give you a brief synopsis of my limitations). But I’ll try to cover all the bases with an enthusiastic description of what I loved to eat, and lots of photos of what I didn’t eat, with full apologies to Anthony Bourdain for my timid palate.

Pachamanca: slow, stone-roasted potatoes & llama, which I actually tasted & liked! Kinda…

Peruvian cuisine is based around native animals (alpaca, llama, beef, fish and cuy.. yep, it’s guinea pig) & potatoes. Peruvians love their starch, and since potatoes originated here (not in my beloved Ireland, mates) and there are 3000 varieties in every conceivable flavor, texture and color, I was totally at home on the veg side of the table. Beautiful fava beans, carrots, cauliflower, beets, green beans, creamy avocado, and/or some type of yummy slaw were usually served alongside the potatoes and so, no matter what the “main” course, I was in hog-less heaven.

Oh, and just to make the potato/veg thing really sing, Peruvians make the most luscious sauces to dip/slather on your potatoes: green herb, racy red radish, guacamole, and my fave: a golden mustardy/mayo concoction that I wanted to pour over my entire plate.

The last time I was in Peru, my friend Judith fell in love with lomo saltado – a Peruvian stir-fry featuring chicken or beef, peppers, tomatoes, rice and French fries, and I was dying to have a platter of carbs in her honor. But since we were mostly at really high altitudes, where your appetite evaporates even faster than your breath, we ate a lot of soup. Delicious chicken soup, pasta soup, noodle soup and vegetable soup ..which luckily is my favorite food ever, particularly when paired with their airy, triangular bread.Some of the traditional dishes that I didn’t exactly eat (but tasted!!) were pachamanca shown above (and that sweet potato was the best I’ve ever had) and the dreaded cuy. Cuy is low-cholesterol, high protein and quite nutritious–and Peruvians adore it– but I couldn’t get past the little paws on the plate. Sorry …

Instead, I usually opted for the trucha frite — fried trout — which is ubiquitous in Peru, from roadside stands to upscale restaurants. Ceviche (lime-marinated raw seafood that is amazing) is also hugely popular but since we spent almost no time on the coast, we didn’t see a lot of it.

The acid test for any cuisine, in my humble opinion, is the coffee and in Peru (as in most coffee-producing countries), it wasn’t too hot. Literally. They brew the coffee really, really strong, then set it out in a pitcher and suggest you add hot water from a thermos.  I like my coffee scalding, so I only achieved partial coffee satisfaction. As for alcoholic beverages, the pisco sour is quite tasty, made from Peru’s own unique pisco liqueur (don’t confuse it with the Chileans’ copycat version or they will get really crabby). Cusquena, my beer of choice, was delicious – but the bottles were a big commitment. Like 42 ounces. And that’s a Big Gulp.

My big surprise was the fruits. Sure, the usual suspects: cantaloupe, pineapple, mango, watermelon were fine, but I really loved the granadia, tumbo, and chirimoya which we bought at roadside stands and devoured in the car — totally unique in their sour, sweet and musty tastes and fun to eat, too.

Breakfast of Heifer champions: Rosaluz, Madeline, Claudio, Lidia & Kristen.

So what do I miss the most? The sauces! And the way everybody always sat down at meals together and shared the food with grace and gusto. That was really delicious.

Categories: Food, Heifer International, Peru, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

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34 thoughts on “What I ate in Peru.

  1. The food looks wonderful, colorful and gourmet. Okay I love sauces which add so much flavor. I used to cook like that, someday I will again. Thanks, Betty!

    • I personally don’t think I’ll ever cook this way again (or did I ever??) but boy, I really appreciated the effort that went into the sauces of Peru… it was SO SO yummy! Thanks for the comment, Kim!!

  2. Sarah Forbes

    Love this blog! Witty and interesting!

  3. Fantastic food tour of Peru. Great pics capturing the color and presentation. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Rufina, I’m so happy to hear from you!! Glad you liked the photos — I had to threaten people to get them to leave the sauces untouched until I could take the pics!!!

  4. Ha, Betty. I love this. I, too, have a picky palatte. It’s the one thing that makes me less than a perfect traveler. I’ve always been a timid eater. But I’ve loved seeing what you did and didn’t eat.

    By the way, you got a mention in my post today.


    • THANKS so much, Kathryn for the comment and the mention!! I’m having a hard time connecting on the internet so it’s a bit challenging keeping up with all my bloggy friends! I think if I were worried about being an adventurous eater, I’d never travel — so instead, I just count on being able to eat vegetables, and don’t worry about offending people about the meat thing. There’s only so much you can do – and eating odd meat is just never going to go down well!! LOVELY to hear form you!!

  5. Appetizing! What’s more is that it added fuel to my desire to travel. Well done.

  6. Ginger O'Neill

    Hi Betty,

    So good to hear from you! Thanks for making the story food blog because it is such an important part of every culture except the American culture who secretly disdain food otherwise why would we have so many packaged meals available and ready to eat in a nano second!!!!

    I got to see Lulu for a short bit over Easter. She was blown away at seeing Glennon. It was crazy with 42 people so it was a brief visit.

    Miss ya!


    • Ginger — so happy you saw Lulu on EAster (wish I had) and I know she was so surprised to see big, tall, skinny Glennon!!! I loved writing about the food of Peru .. but just wait til you read the Chinese posts on food. Wowsa!!! love you honey pie….

  7. I thought I liked to try everything until reading your post. Guinea pigs? Those adorable alpacas? Lukewarm coffee?

    Maybe I’ll pass.

    • Hey Ronnie — Never assume that you have an adventurous palate until you REALLY test it out in another country! Alpaca meat is a staple here.. because what else are they going to eat?? But it’s not so fun to see the carcasses with all that beautiful fur … which is why I hardly ever eat meat in any country. It just doesn’t make me feel very … natural. THANKS for the comment!!

  8. Isn’t Peru divine! I recognise some of that food and, more importantly, some of those beautiful faces from my Heifer Study Tour to Peru in 2010! Rosalus was a brilliant translater and Madeline and Lidia were wonderful guides. They took good care of me and my altitude sickness 🙂 I am really enjoying your blog. Thanks for posting!

    • Thanks, Katie — and Rosaluz definitely remembers all you Study Tour people with great fondness!! I loved Madeline and Lidia so much — we just had a total blast in Cusco .. the entire Peruvian staff is divine!!

  9. Liz Meitus

    I know, firsthand, your love affair with soup — so I did get a giggle out of that. But honestly, I found myself smiling wide while reading the entire post. I love food! And the culture associated to it! Having been force fed barbequed city-squirrel as a child, I can’t imagine cuy could be much worse. Better safe than sorry I guess. 🙂 Thank you again for an amazing post. Always the best start of my day!

    • Whoa … squirrel?? That’s one for the books (and Yvette, I don’t blame you, honey!!) … but Lizzie, you would have loved loved LOVED all the fresh veggies in Peru .. and the potatoes, of course!! So happy to hear from you & get those photos of the darling Miss Easter Kaya!!!

  10. anaslense

    I love peruvian food! 🙂

  11. Love, love, love the food posts. And all the other posts. And you. 🙂

  12. I was wondering how the cuy would go over. Another great post, thanks Betty!

  13. By the way Betty, it wasn’t Liz’s mother that force fed the barbequed squirrel (just sayin’) but those sauces sound delicious. I see a cooking class in the near future! Can’t wait! 🙂

  14. George Weaver

    Beautiful photographs. I was fascinated by the vegetables and the sauces. I could live there based on those alone. Is it possible to make these sauces or does it require local ingredients to taste authentic? I’m off to China and Nepal.

    • I think it probably requires local ingredients to make it truly authentic, specially the radishy sauces that were so yummy (and the avocadoes… yummmm!) but wait til you see the Chinese food blog! WOW that was amazing …

  15. I think I would like Peru with my enjoyment of all things potato. The soups are making me hungry–though it is well past when I should be eating.

    Glad you are holding off on the 42 oz. beers, but it would have been interesting to see what different direction your blog post took had you consumed that prior to writing.

    Great content as always. Stay safe Betty.

    • THANKS, SD .. and yeah, the potatoes were world-class, but the beers? Definitely too much of a commitment, although I have to say, I have been known to imbibe and scribe! CHEERS, b

  16. When I was there I really enjoyed the Ceviche and the Pisco sours! Cheers!

    • Didn’t have the ceviche, BUT i did have a few thimbles full of pisco sour (they served tiny glasses as appetizers) and they were pretty darn good!

  17. Martha

    Have been traveling, so am just now catching up and reading this. When we were thinking about going to Peru our 2 young sons said, “OK, we’ll go under one condition. That we never have to eat guinea pigs (they had some as pets)!” They had been closely reading the library books on Peru we’d brought home and picked up right away on the food. Wouldn’t you know it that our first trip into a village in the campo outside of Cusco, the village honored us with a special meal. Our family was seated at a table (the rest of the village sat on the ground in front of us) and was served…CUY! Those little teeth and the curled claws on the plate just about did us in, but we dug in—-with lots of kicking under the table from the boys. As you can imagine, we never heard the end of it.

  18. Wow, your boys are a lot more accommodating than my kids – no way would they have eaten it!! I couldn’t bring myself to do it, but then I always figure — I’ve got 9 more months to go. I can’t get sick now… and that gives me the probably bogus feeling that it’s okay to be such a cuisine pansy. Thanks for the comment, Martha — where have YOU been???

  19. Pingback: In Context: Peruvian Treats | Heifer Blog

  20. Oh how I miss Peruvian food. You have a fantastic blog here and what you are doing is truly impressive. Great discovering you through The Wanderlust Gene blog.

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