(Australian Associated Press)
From corn soft drink to pumpkin-tasting ice cream, Peru is a surprising burst of flavours and colours.
Visiting one of Lima’s produce markets can be a tourists activity in itself. While all your usual fruits and vegetables make an appearance, there’s also a fascinating array of hanging animal parts, odd-looking fruits, jars of preserved vegetables and vibrant spices.
Lima is starting to win a reputation for high-quality food and produce, with a growing focus on buying local. In this big city of nearly nine million, you’ll also find excellent western-inspired food – especially in the tourist district of Miraflores. But if you want to experience some of the local cuisine, try these seven local flavours:
You can’t walk down a street in Lima without bumping into a cebicheria – the selling place of Peru’s traditional dish. It’s raw fish cooked lightly in the acid from tart limes – and given Lima’s proximity to the ocean, it’s one of the best ways to sample the city’s fresh seafood. While there are many variations, you can’t make a true Peruvian ceviche without lime, onion, chilli and salt. La Mar Cebicheria serves dozens of different ceviches and changes its menu daily, using the freshest fish or seafood. Or you opt to try this delicacy at a a small bar in a local produce market.
Despite some contention with its neighbour Chile over the origins of pisco, Peru claims this grape-made spirit as its own. You can drink pisco with basically anything – think of it a bit like vodka. But one of the best ways to try this local spirit is mixed with lime, egg-white and sugar syrup – you’re traditional “pisco sour”. You’d be hard pressed to find a licensed bar or restaurant in Lima that doesn’t make a good one. Beware though, while the cocktail tastes sweet, pisco does pack a punch – some brands are made of 42 per cent alcohol.
Peru has about 4000 types of potatoes. Really. So you can bet they know how to do potato dishes. Of the more well-known is Causa, which is circular, layered mashed potato broken up with layers of avocado and a vegetable or meat mix, and served cold.
While lucuma is technically a fruit, it tastes a bit like caramel-infused pumpkin or sweet potato. Which is why it might seem a little odd to discover in ice cream. But in Peru you can find it in most ice cream stores and it’s actually pretty good – think pumpkin pie in the United States or Canada. You can also find it in smoothies throughout Lima.
Purple corn soft drink. Yep. That’s one of Peru’s favourite local beverages. The drink, which is more like a thick juice, is made from dried Peruvian purple corn and pineapple – sometimes with added cinnamon, clove or sugar. It’s sweet and served cold and pops up on many menus around Peru.
They’re so cute it seems a tad odd when alpaca is served on your plate. Especially if you’re from a country that considers alpaca wool part of expensive attire. But in some parts of Peru, particularly in mountain cities like Arequipa, the cousin of the larger llama is a common dish. It’s served in stews and as steaks, and tastes a lot like lamb with a hint of pork.
GUINEA PIG (CUY)
Like our previous fury friend, eating guinea pig seems a little strange. Peruvians in the Andean region have been eating guinea pig for thousands of years. In those towns you’ll often find it roasted on sticks in the same way you might find a pig on a spit at a backyard BBQ in Australia. But in Lima, it’s more likely to be on a fancy menu as a crispy skinned slice of delicate meet or in a gyoza or dumpling.
IF YOU GO
Lima is about 19 hours from Sydney with one stop. There is no direct flight to Lima, with visitors required to stop over in Santiago. LATAM Airlines offers flights with two stops – through Auckland and Santiago – from $A2100. Visit www.latam.com. La Mar Avenue is just a couple of suburbs from Lima’s tourist district Miraflores. Harrysson Neira’s Curador De Cafe is located in market-place Perupa-ti, just near Lima’s tourist district Miraflores.
Lima’s Miraflores tourist district offers a range of hotels of differing standards. The Marriott, just set back from the waters edge, has luxurious rooms starting from $A427. Visit www.marriott.com/hotels/
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in cities serving traditional Peruvian food, particularly in Lima. Some of Peru’s attractions are located outside cities and require a few hours or travel. While there are plenty of taxis is the cities to get you around, buses are necessary to get to some of the sights. If you’re worried about organising activities or transport, booking a tour is a simple, stress-free way to take it all in. Condor Travel offers several tour options – from two days exploring Lima to two weeks venturing into other parts of Peru. Visit www.condortravel.com.
* The writer travelled as a guest of PromPeru.