Pan campesino is to the Kimbles as blue meth is to Walter White. Even when we have some, we’re thinking about more! Prior to arriving in Peru, we knew relatively little about what to expect in the way of food. Now that we’ve had a taste, we feel qualified to give our two cents (how do you convert that into Peruvian soles?). The categories of food below are broken up into the following: things you know, things you probably don’t know and things we still have to try.
Things you know:
1. Avocados: They are so green and the perfect consistency. I never imagined in my life that I would be fighting Karen for the last bite of avocado!
2. Ceviche: This dish is a type of raw (usually local) fish cooked in lime or other citrus juices. Local Peruvians often eat ceviche after a long night of drinking to cure their hangovers. If you’re a seafood fan, this is right up your alley!
3. Mangoes: Rainy season in Cusco is also mango season. If you enjoy mangoes in the United States, you will be blown away by the size, flavor and juiciness of these incredible fruits!
3. Pan campesino: Karen and I take a trip to the panadería (bakery) about every other day. One of our staples has been the pan campesino (peasant bread), which is similar in flavor to a delicious wheat bread.
5. Queso Andino: Say cheese! This Andean cheese is pasteurized, unlike much of the cheese sold in the region. We didn’t want to test our stomachs too much so we went the safe (and delicious) route. We often pair this with none other than…pan campesino!
6. Starbucks: Before you lose your cool on why we included this, let me explain. The Starbucks in Cusco is the only Starbucks in the world which uses organic coffee beans!
Things you probably don’t know:
1. Aji de gallina: Karen and I both agree that this is the best meal we’ve eaten since arriving in Peru. Translated as “chili chicken,” this dish consists of a heavy cream served over chicken (or hen), potatoes and rice. Hard-boiled egg and sliced olives garnish the top!
2. Bistec a la olla: Quite simply, “steak in the pot.” The steak is cooked in a pan and then served with a variety of vegetables and rice.
3. Cancha: Pieces of salted, fried Andean corn served as a side with some meals. It looks like a combination between fried corn kernels and corn nuts, but the taste is much better than either of those!
4. Chicha Morada: This is a Peruvian drink made from the purple corn that is grown in the area. It’s a very refreshing and much less-sugary version of fruit juice.
5. Inca Cola: Not food at all, but necessary to include on this list. The South American brother of Coca-Cola, this drink initially tastes like you’re drinking a gumball. But give it time and it may become one of your favorite drinks.
6. Lomo saltado: A local favorite (and the favorite dish of our host Manuel), it typically combines pieces of steak with onions, tomato, fried yellow potatoes and rice. Delicious!
7. Saltado de acelga: Very similar but less popular than its friend above, this has nearly everything that lomo saltado has minus the tomato and onions. It will likely includes sautéed swiss chard or a similar green for added flavor.
Things we still have to try:
1. Alpaca: Similar in appearance to a llama, these animals are used primarily for their wool and meat. We’ve seen some walking on the streets but have yet to see them on our dinner plate.
2. Cuy (Guinea Pig): This is considered to be the number one delicacy in Peru. Our host’s father has a birthday this weekend, and it’s looking like guinea pig might be on the horizon!
3. Quail eggs: These little hard-boiled eggs are peeled and served by street vendors all over town.
Our next report will hopefully include follow-up on the “things we still have to try,” as well as a slew of other delicious Peruvian foods!