Peruvian cuisine is among the most varied in the world while still retaining local practices and ingredients as well. It has been influenced by both indigenous Inca and immigrants from around the world, including Spanish, Chinese, Italian, German, Japanese and African influences. Peru has a wide variety of flora and fauna but the three traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine are corn, potatoes, and chili peppers, which can be found in most Peruvian foods in one way or another. Ingredients brought over by the Spanish, the biggest foreign influence to Peruvian cuisine, includes rice, wheat and meats (beef, pork and chicken). However, traditional foods are on their way back and foods such as quinoa, kaniwa, some varieties of chili peppers, and several roots and tubers have increased in popularity in recent years. This reflects a new interest in native Peruvian foods and culinary techniques. Now, usually when we speak about Peruvian gastronomy, three regions come to mind: the coast, the highlands and the jungle. The gastronomy scene has exploded in Peru, now reaching into almost every corner of the world.
Coastal cuisine in Peru is among the best in the world. Peru is widely known for having an abundance of fish and aquatic life, a veritable menagerie that can only be found in Peru. Every coastal region, being distinct in flora and fauna populations, adapts its cuisine in accordance to the resources available in its waters. One of the most popular dishes, Ceviche, has many variations (typically mixed with fish and shellfish) and provides a good example of regional adaptation. Ceviche is found in almost every Peruvian restaurant, typically served with sweet potato and can be very spicy. It is certainly one of the many delicacies that can be found in Peru. Other dishes include “tiradito”, a Peruvian dish of raw fish, similar to sashimi and carpaccio that differs from ceviche in the way in which the fish is cut, “chupe de camaron”, a shrimp soup make with milk, eggs, and oregano, and “leche de tigre” (tiger’s milk) which is basically a by-product of ceviche made up of concentrated lime juice, pepper and fish.
In the valleys and plains of the Andes, the locals’ diet is still based on corn, potatoes, and an assortment of tubers. One of their most famous dishes is the pachamanca, which is made from many kinds of meat (including beef and pork), herbs and a variety of vegetables that are slowly cooked underground on a bed of heated stones. Other dishes include guinea pig, or “cuy”, an Inca delicacy, “rocoto relleno”, spicy bell peppers stuffed with vegetables and/or beef among others.
Last but not least is Amazonian cuisine. 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, tucunare, boquichico, palometa, bagre (catfish), and many others including the piranha, that are prepared in variety of dishes such as “timbuche” (soup) or “patarashca” (grilled in vegetables). The Black Caiman is also considered a delicacy although it is forbidden under Peruvian law.
No matter who you are, whether you’re a gourmand looking for a luxurious morsel or a tourist that just wants to try something new, there’s no better place to travel to than Peru.