I love Peruvian cuisine in general. But if you ask me which is my favorite one, I would definitely say Andean Cuisine. The reason is not difficult to understand; I was born and grew up in Arequipa a beautiful city in the South of Peru surrounded by three volcanoes. Peruvians feel very proud of their local food in each city. So, I am not the exception. You have to believe me, sometimes you can argue for hours trying to decide which city has the best cuisine.
The Peruvian mountains have an abundance of nutritious ingredients; Thus, the Andean cuisine is very hearty and generous. Traditional Andean soups and stews are the most popular dishes in this area. It’s amazing how traditions are still alive, you can find many restaurants that continue using the same technique to cook the food, wood fire ovens, and ceramic pots are part of the Incas legacy. Food preserves the nutrients through a slow and aromatic cooking process.
For hundreds of years, since the Inca’s civilization, we have based our diet on potatoes, grain, tubers and meat. People from Andeans were the first in sowed the potato plant around 8000 years ago. Potatoes are more than just accompaniments; they are part of lots of recipes, as well as, the main ingredient in other ones. Baked, fried, boiled, grated, dried, grilled, stewed, roasted, stuffed potatoes are part of our culinary culture, and for many Peruvians, this tuber is their primary staple food. One of my favorite food made with potatoes is “Potato Cake” or in Spanish “Pastel de Papa” a traditional dish from my city. Thin potato slices layered with fresh cheese sliced and covered with a mix of milk and eggs and a touch of anise seeds. In the recent years, the Potato Cake has become popular as a side dish, this leads me to another fantastic meal from my city “Rocoto Relleno” in this case I think there is not an accurate translation. Rocoto is like a chili with a large oval shaped and very spicy, this chili is stuffed with beef, diced onions, eggs, olives and local spices, covered with cheese and place in the oven, in one word delicious.
Another spectacular, tasty, fresh and easy dish with potato is “Papa a la Huancaina.” It isn’t from my city, but it’s a traditional food from another historical place, Huancayo. It contains boiled potatoes cover with a creamy sauce made with aji, another kind of chili, milk, and cheese, garnished with lettuce, boiled eggs, and olives. As you can see that with more than 3000 varieties of potatoes, the options are endless.
This post will not be complete if I do not mention one of the most popular crops nowadays that grows in the Andes “Quinoa.” We have been cultivated Quinoa for more than 6000 years, for the Incas civilization Quinoa was the second staple food after the potato, and was a sacred food for them. Because of its nutritional value, the Inca army ate Quinoa when they have to travel long distances. Quinoa was known as “chisaya mama,” in other words “mother grain.” The crops grow in high altitudes, its seeds contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals, and they are free of gluten and low in fat. Now there are tons of Quinoa recipes, but the one that I like the most is “Quinoa Batida” in other words a mix of boiled Quinoa, with milk, and cheese topped with a delicious thin steak.
If you are planning to visit Peru please try these other dishes:
Pachamanca: from Ayacucho and Huancavelica cities, this one is a completely different dish, because it is cooked underground and we used hot stones layered in between the food to cook them. It contains seasoned meat; it could be any kind of meat, herbs, and vegetables cooked for many hours. I have to say that you will never taste something similar.
Humitas: fresh corn is ground, sometimes are salty, but they could be sweet. It contains cheese or meat like beef, chicken or pork. They are wrapped in corn husks and steamed. They are similar to Mexican tamales.
Chupe de Camarones: a tasty shrimp soup, very famous in my city. It is Perfect for cold weather. Shrimps with vegetables cooked with various spices, mixed with milk, little squares of fresh cheese and eggs. It is a very hearty and nutritious soup.
I’m hungry….. and you?