If you’re looking for the best cuisine in South America, Peru is one of the places you should go. Peru has a diverse culinary history dating back to the Incan civilization. Food is very important to the Incas and meals are expansive and varied. A typical Incan meal would not be complete without potatoes, maize, meats, fruits, and peppers. Peruvian cuisine was also influenced by its Spanish conquerors that introduced fruits and vegetables imported from Europe such as olives, limes, grapes, and apples. The cultivation of sugar cane in Peru bought about the development of native desserts and sweets. Modern Peruvian cuisine is greatly influenced by the large number of Chinese restaurants or “chifas” all over the country. This unique type of cuisine usually mixes local ingredients with Chinese spices and flavors.
The wide variety of Peruvian food is also influenced by its three major regions, the Costa, Selva and the Sierra. The different climates and landscapes influenced the type of fruits, vegetables and meats available. This variety of ingredients available has created dishes unique to each region but still maintain its Peruvian identity.
Tasting Peruvian cuisine is a great way of truly immersing yourself into the strong and vibrant culture of this country. Eating and drinking through Peru may be the best way to experience the culture better than any guided tour. Here’s a quick guide to get you started on your culinary adventure through Peru.
• The Costa. The Costa, or Peru’s coastal region, follows the Pacific coastline from north to south. The Costa is popular for its beautiful beaches and for its ceviche. Ceviche is the typical fare for most of the fisherfolk who live along the Peru’s coast. Ceviche is fresh fish, usually hake, marinated in lemon, lime, garlic and chili. The locals usually prepare this dish as soon as the catch of the day reaches the shore and is served with lettuce, tomatoes, and cold, sweet potatoes.
Peru’s capital, Lima, can also be found along the Costa. Lima is home to modern Peruvian cuisine which is the fusion of local ingredients like yams, potatoes, and seafood with oriental flavors.
• The Selva. The Selva makes up 60% of Peru which includes the Amazon River and the isolated rain forest region in the eastern part of the country. Industries there include tree removal, as well as some activism opportunities. Food in the Selva is often rustic and rich and this is best characterized by juanes. Juanes is similar to a tamal except it’s a bijao leaf filled with rice, spices, and stuffing. This stuffing can be yuca, fish, chicken or meat. It’s heavy, hearty, home-made fare that you can’t miss when going anywhere in Peru.
• The Sierra. The Sierra is dominated by Peru’s highland region called the Cordillera de los Andes. Cuisine from this region is most representative of the dishes that excited before the colonization of Spanish. Some Sierra locals even practice ancient cooking practices that existed during the Incas. When traveling through the region, lechon and rocoto relleno cannot be missed. Lechon is pig roasted in a stone oven underground. Rocoto relleno or stuffed red peppers is one of Peru’s most popular dishes. Authetic rocoto rellenos from the Sierra region are spicy and rich; not for the faint or weak at heart.