There’s nothing better in this world than delicious food, and food from different countries is even better. I haven’t traveled to any other countries besides Peru, but I love trying out different cuisines, and living near a metropolitan area makes that pretty easy. This post will be dedicated to my country’s cuisine showing a few of the many dishes out there and some of the influential flavors found in this cuisine.
Start Off Small: Causa
Causa, or “potato cake,” as one of my friends calls it, is probably one of my favorite lighter dishes. It’s served cold as an appetizer and comprises a bottom layer of seasoned mashed potato, chicken or tuna salad, avocado (typically optional), and sealed with another top layer of the same seasoned mashed potato. If someone were to give me a cold mashed potato, I’d probably say “no, thanks,” but this is a seasoned mashed potato that derives its flavor from the staple pepper in Peruvian cuisine, el aji Amarillo. This yellow pepper has a pretty unique taste and is not as hot as one would expect; it gives the potato in this dish its distinctive color. If you try causa, I highly recommend eating on a hot summer day right after the beach.
Try If You Dare: Ceviche
Picky eaters may not like this dish, but I can assure you won’t regret trying it as this is a must-have for all tourists who visit Peru. Ceviche is also another cold dish that can be eaten as an appetizer or entree. It consists of small raw pieces of fish marinated in lots of lime juice and accompanied with slices of boiled sweet potato, maize Tostado (roasted corn nuts), and kernels of Peruvian corn.
Now, this isn’t just simple lime juice; ceviche gets a lot of its flavor from the combination between the limes, small pieces of spicy red pepper, and ginger that also go into the dish. This dish is very popular in Lima, the capital of Peru, which is right on the pacific ocean coast. Due to the proximity to the sea, you will find many seafood dishes in Peru, so even if you don’t try ceviche, there will be plenty to discover.
The People Pleaser: Lomo Saltado
This dish always gets a “10/10 would try again” rating from people and is pretty beginner-friendly. Lomo saltado is essentially beef stir fry served with rice, but we take it one step further and incorporate french fries as well. Fry onions, tomatoes, and beef strips in a soy sauce-based marinade, then either throw in some french fries or serve it on the side, eat with a side dish of rice, and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal.
It’s a pretty mainstream dish but also reflects the heavy Asian influence in Peruvian cuisine as well. Peru has seen an influx of Asian immigrants to the country in the 19th and 20th centuries, who brought along their dishes and helped fuse Asian (typically Chinese) and Peruvian cooking elements into a Peruvian subcategory cuisine known as Chifa. It’s so good that it is loved by Peruvians all over and beats the regular takeout.
Fuel Your Sugar Addiction: Alfajores
Every good meal must end with an equally good dessert, and baking is my specialty, so I must talk about alfajores. Now there are many recipes out there for these cookies since they can be found all throughout Latin America and Spain as well, but I will talk about the best ones. Peruvian alfajores are two cookies, which are typically made from wheat flour, sandwiched together by a dulce de leche filling and covered with a dusting of powdered sugar. I highly recommend having alfajores that are made from maicena, aka corn starch, rather than flour. These are a lot softer than the regular ones and taste like biting into a sweet pillow.
They can be varied by altering the filling or adding coconut on the cookie’s side, which is a pretty popular tradition in Peruvian bakeries. Whichever kind you get, definitely have a glass of milk or water handy as they can get a bit drying if you eat too many. Nevertheless, once you try one, I can promise you’ll be craving more.