Guide to the Best Peruvian Cuisine
August 29, 2020 Business
From the rich to the poor, from the jungles, the coast, the Andes, the high plateau and the immigrants from Europe, China, Japan and Africa, they are all living, working and most importantly eating together in a marvelous, noisy, inescapable chaos as vivid as the country that surrounds it. In my time living in Lima I came to love it like I have loved only a few other cities and encountered only one problem – hunger. I just didn’t have enough of it.
Most mornings I would cross the road in front of my house and head to the small two-wheeled food cart on the corner. There I would order a simple avocado sandwich and a glass of quinoa con manzana, a thick, warm drink made of the ancient Andean grain-like quinoa (now gaining popularity as a health food and in NASA’a sights as a part of astronauts diets) and apple puree for under a dollar. After very limited morning dialogues, I would stand, chew what may be the best avocadoes on the planet and carefully plan my day around where and what I wanted to eat.
I arrived in Lima blissfully ignorant of what the food world had been talking about for years, but took only a few days to dip my toe into the pool of potential culinary delights, grin and then swan dive into a passion that will stay with me for the rest of my life linaza.
Even a basic list of the historical influences that make up the Peruvian cuisine is an exhaustive global journey; The Incan Empire united massive parts of the South American continent and their communications extended even further, some say to cultures as far as Mexico. Thus they brought together a massive variety of flavours and eating habits from colourful jungle foods, Andean diets rich in potatoes (Peru is the ancestral home of the potato and boasts some 2000 varieties) and mountains of fresh seafood gifted by the passing Humboldt Current – and the infamous ceviche. (Ceviche is the best known Peruvian dish, perfect in its simplicity – fresh fish cut into small chucks and ‘cooked’ only by a sauce of lime and chili mixed with slivers of onion and served with sweet potato and toasted Peruvian corn.) Later came the Spaniards and their cuisine, itself with a long and varied history, and in the 19th century a wave of new flavours arrived with the Italian immigrants, Chinese and Japanese workers and African slaves.
While it is possible to eat your way around Peru in Lima alone, with restaurants and market stalls representing every region of the country, nothing will beat moving around and trying it locally – not to mention it will be considerably cheaper as food seems to decrease in price exponentially as you move away from the tourist centres.
Lima is however, your best place to eat ceviche and sample the now infinite varieties of that classic dish in top end restaurants run by celebrity chefs or a little gem, complete with plastic tables and paper printed menus in one of the coastal towns to the south of the city (Just ask around, you will get no end of suggestions on where to go – the best ceviche being one the most hotly debated topics in Lima. Try: Pescarte in Barranco – heaven for both the classic dishes and stunning innovations and one of my favourite menus in town, Pez Amigos in Miraflores, a well-loved neighbourhood icon that over lunch time buzzes with cheerful chatter and spectacular food, or head down to San Bartolo – about 40 min South – and ask around for the best cevicheria – you will not be disapointed.