Peruvian Food: A Culinary Visual Tour

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Lomo saltado

As I sit here craving una empanadita de carne con un vaso de chicha morada, I can’t help but think how awesome it would be if I knew how to cook Peruvian food. Sadly, this is not one of my talents…but I want to change that. I feel I owe to my bicultural children. In the meantime, I wanted to share some pictures of some of the delectable treats we were able to feast upon during our recent trip to Perú. Before we even got there, my husband — who is a professional photographer — told me he planned on taking pictures of every single plate of food he ate. While that didn’t really happen, (he was too busy stuffing himself), he did take pictures of many of them and we now have a small collection. For many people, Peruvian food is the equivalent of ceviche, papa a la Huncaina and lomo saltado, but there is so much more to the cuisine of my country. Besides the influences it has from other countries (Japan, China, Italy, to name a few), Perú is blessed with three very distinct geographical zones la costa (the coast), la sierra (the mountains) and la selva (the rainforest. The Amazon River is born in Perú). The following pictures only scratch the surface (as they mostly depict food from the coast), but it’s a way to introduce you to some of the flavorful eats of my homeland. Enjoy!

Foreground: Empanada de carne (our have a hard boiled eggs, aceitunas de botija and raisins). Background: Tamal verde (with cilantro) con salsa de cebolla (background) and a cold Inka Kola on the side.

A more detailed photo of a tamal verde with ají amarillo sauce on top.

Papa rellena (stuffed potato) with salsa criolla and rocoto, a Peruvian hot pepper.

This was my first ceviche, which I ate the day after we got to Perú, in a restaurant called Segundo Muelle. Peruvian corn is not sweet and its grains are very large. Ceviche is always served with camote — or sweet potato — which in this particular restaurant is served caramelized. Words cannot describe the intense flavor  of this dish.

Palta rellena (avocado stuffed with shredded chicken with artisan mayonnaise) topped with sliced and chopped rocoto and ají amarillo (Peruvian chili peppers).

Chita frita a la chorrillana with white rice (fried fish, probably fished earlier that morning, with onions, tomatoes, ají amarillo, potatoes and white rice). We stayed in a small hotel right on the beach and this was one of our lunches. Couldn’t get any fresher than this!

Tamal criollo, this one with pork inside and with salsa de cebolla (julienne-sliced red onion, ají amarillo and lime).

Pan frances con chicharron (with slices of sweet potato). This is from a place called La Antojeria which luckily — or unluckily for our waists — is only one block away from my abuelita’s apartment.

Corvina a lo macho with the ubiquitous white rice. Peruvians can’t live without white rice :) . A fillet of sea bass topped with a delish seafood sauce. Also from Segundo Muelle.

Pan de papa with all kind of sauces (ají amarillo, rocoto, artisan butter, chimichurri) to spread on top. The photo above and the x that follow where all taken at Panchita, one of the newer restaurants opened by the very talented Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio — considered by many as the one responsible for the rise in popularity of Peruvian cuisine around the world.

It’s really hard to explain how exquisite the food — mostly criollo cuisine — was at this restaurant. Everything we tasted from the bread to the espresso we drank to conclude our festín was absolutely decadent. It was only 12 noon when my husband and I arrived for lunch — we were one of the first ones there, although not for long — but on my sister’s recommendation, I opted for a Maracuyá sour, a fruitier version of our famed Pisco sour. I was not disappointed! I must also mentioned that I was pleasantly surprised by the restaurant’s decor which was very true to its criollo cuisine theme with rich colors and a wood oven where the pan de papa is baked.

Empanadas fritas mixtas which reminded my husband of his homeland’s empanadillas (because they were fried instead of baked) except for their filling: choclo, ají de gallina, lomo saltado and carne.

Chuletas de chancho fritas con tacu tacu a lo pobre. Fried pork chops with tacu tacu (a fried mixture of black beans and white rice) and a fried egg with salsa criolla on the side. My husband ate until the last grain of rice had disappeared!

Seco de cabrito. This very popular dish from the Northern coast of Peru — my dad’s tierra — is basically a goat stew marinated in chicha de jora (an alcoholic drink made from fermeted maíz). My dad used to make a mean seco… I can almost taste it!

Merengado de lúcuma con crema chantilly. Mousse made of lúcuma, a fruit native to Perú, with pieces of meringue and crema chantilly, a sort of whipped cream but much more decadent (it has powdered sugar and vanilla). As I looked over this photo gallery, I realized I’ve barely included photos of desserts, but not for lack of choices. I guess we just devoured them as soon as they were served!

Last, but not least, una chela bien fría or an ice cold Peruvian beer. Cusqueña is my fave and what I had to drink with most of my meals, unless I went for a Pisco Sour. There’s just something about its taste that goes perfect with la comida criolla de mi Perú.

*** All images © José A. Guzman ***

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