The country of Peru in known throughout the world for many things. The majestic Inca ruins of Machu Picchu always top the list, accompanied by images of Alpacas and bright-colored Andian clothing, and the unique sounds of bamboo pan flutes and churrangos. Throughout the seven months time that I've made Peru my home, I've discovered something just as colorful as the traditional clothing, just as majestic as the ancient ruins, and just as unique as the music. I'm talking about the world of Peruvian Cuisine.
The one dish that's had considerable influence on Latin American cuisine and touched pallets word-wide is Peru's ceviche . Variations can be found from Chile all the way up through Mexico, but the original flavors, and arguably the best, come from the Peru's Pacific coast. This is where the fresh fish and shellfish are caught, cut into strips or bites, and marinated in lime-based sauces. The meat is never cooked using heat, but rather, the acids in the lime juice cook the fish chemically. A wide variety of cheviches exists, made using different sauces, but commonly served with onions, slices of hot pepper, a portion of sweet potato, and large, juicy corn kernels, called canchita .
Another signature Peruvian food item that rarely ever finds detractors, is the delicious beverage, chicha morada. While there are in fact many varieties of chicha, chicha morada is made buy boiling pineapple rinds, flavored with cloves and cinnamon, and colored purple by adding the maiz morada, or purple corn. It serves as a wonderful accompaniment to just about any traditional Peruvian dish, and be ordered in most restaurants either by the glass or by the jar.
Even the most basic dishes can be a pleasure for the taste buds. A dish common throughout the country, lomo saltado, is a simple bed of French fries, topped with a sauté of onions, tomatoes, and strips of beef. On its own, it may seem like nothing special, but the touch comes from the wine used in the sauté pan, which gets absorbed by juicy tomatoes and gives off a distinct flavor.
A basic Peruvian cuisine fusion that is surprisingly common can be found in the chifas that seem to be occupy almost every corner. Usually a cheap option, the chifa has various dishes that combine Chinese and Peruvian cooking styles, and has developed into it's own brand of cuisine. Arroz chaufa is a plate of rice, often with scrambled egg, bits of salchicha (like a hot dog,) green and red onion, cooked in the wok with a soy-based sauce. It always comes with a creamy aji, which one can add at their liking to give the dish some more spice.
It would only be appropriate that I finish off with something sweet to fill our the spectrum of flavors. Churros are common throughout Latin America, and can be sampled in most Mexican restaurants in the US. Peruvians put their own twist on these fried sticks of batter, covered in cinamon and sugar. They often take the liberty of filling them with caramel, chocolate, or fruit marmalade. Really, the sky is the limit with how creative one can be.
This is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the food of Peru, which has an incredible variety of regional specialties, all with their own unique flavors and influences. Everything from savory soups, to stuffed peppers, to tamales and filled pastries. For anyone that loves food, Peruvian cuisine will undoubtedly leave them with a world of delicious opportunities to explore.