Traveling through South America gives you the chance to try a wide range of distinct regional cuisines, including the wonderful melting pot that is Peruvian food.
As with the country’s landscape, Peruvian cuisine is diverse, incorporating different flavors and styles from other cultures into cooking traditions that go back thousands of years. It’s an amazing fusion of ancient Peruvian cooking with influences from Spain, Africa, Japan, China, and other parts of the world.
You’ll even notice a difference in the cuisine from region to region. Seafood is a staple of the coast while meat, corn, and potatoes are common in the mountainous Andean region of Peru.
By exploring some of the most popular Peruvian dishes, you can learn more about the history of the local cuisine and the region itself.
Let’s start with one of the oldest and most well-known Peruvian dishes – ceviche. Historians believe that a coastal civilization came up with the dish over 2,000 years ago.
Ceviche is a seafood dish featuring raw fresh fish marinated in a mixture of lemon juice, onion, tomatoes, and other ingredients. Peruvians also often add potatoes in the dish, as they’re a common ingredient in Peruvian food.
Peru is home to over 4,000 varieties of potatoes. Most of these varieties grow high in the Andean region of the country. They come in a wide range of flavors and colors, from sweet red potatoes to mild blue potatoes.
Need a little excitement? Instead of snapping into a Slim Jim, try the original beef jerky. Peru is the home of dried jerky, which originated during the times of the ancient Incan empire.
The name “jerky” comes from the Quechua word “charqui”. Quechua was one of the chief languages of the Incan empire. Incans developed a system for drying beef and potatoes to help the food last longer. It’s a tradition that eventually spread to other regions, but it all started in Peru.
Along with beef, Peruvians make jerky with other meats. Alpaca, llama, and alpaca/llama hybrids are some of the most common choices for Peruvian jerky.
If you can’t handle hot peppers, you may want to avoid this next dish. It’s another classic Peruvian food made with ingredients locals have used for thousands of years. Rocoto relleno originated high in the Andean region of Peru in the city of Arequipa.
The main ingredient is the large rocoto pepper. While it resembles a large red bell pepper, it’s much hotter. The pepper is hollowed out and stuffed with a mixture of ground beef, onion, raisins, nuts, and various herbs and spices.
Arroz con Pato
Arroz con pato (rice with duck) is one of many dishes that showcase the Spanish influence on Peruvian cuisine. The duck is fried with onion, garlic, pepper, and other ingredients and served on a bed of rice.
For thousands of years, Peruvian cuisine mostly consisted of legumes, grains, potatoes, and various native plants. This all changed when the Spanish monarchy greenlighted the conquest of the Inca Empire.
The Spanish conquest lasted from 1532 to 1572 and forever changed the region. Along with the destruction of an entire empire, the Spanish brought wheat, rice, and meats, including chicken, beef, and pork. Along with arroz con pato, rice is found in a wide range of Peruvian dishes, becoming a staple ingredient for this unique cuisine.
Anticuchos de Corazon
Anticuchos de Corazon is one of the most popular dishes to come from the combination of African and Peruvian cuisines. The name “anticuchos” refers to chunks of skewered meat, such as kebabs. “Corazon” is Spanish for heart. So, it’s skewered meat from the heart, typically beef hearts.
When the Spanish conquistadors arrived, they brought more than just war and new ingredients. They also brought African slaves. They in turn brought some of their culinary traditions, including the use of lemons and other citrus for flavoring. They also had to make use of the ingredients available, which often included leftover cuts of meat.
African slaves would adapt local food traditions, such as the use of peppers and garlic, to create new dishes, including anticuchos de corazon. The skewered meats were often made with cow hearts and innards. Today, it’s typically made with cow hearts and stands out as a common Peruvian street food.
Lomo saltado is a great example of chifa, which is a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese cuisine. It’s a stir-fry dish made with strips of steak, onions, tomatoes, and potatoes served with rice.
In the mid-1800s, over 100,000 Chinese immigrants arrived in Peru. Many of these arrivals were indentured servants brought to replace slave labor following the abolishment of slavery in the country.
As with the African immigrants before them, the Chinese immigrants brought many of their customs and traditions, including culinary traditions. They helped introduce stir-fry cooking and soy sauce, which are used to prepare Lomo saltado.
Arroz chaufa is another quick and easy dish that requires just a few ingredients. Instead of thin strips of steak, arroz chaufa can be prepared with any meat of your choice – or even without meat. It’s typically made with eggs, rice, onions, soy sauce, and diced peppers and heated at high heat for about five minutes.
Japanese immigrants arrived in Peru in the late 1800s, bringing more cooking styles and techniques. While the number of Japanese immigrants was much smaller compared to the earlier arrivals of Chinese immigrants, they still left a lasting impact on the local cuisine.
Nikkei cuisine is the resulting blend of Peruvian and Japanese cuisines. It includes a strong focus on seafood. Many dishes include thinly sliced strips of fish seasoned with sesame oil and seeds.
For example, Japanese-style tuna ceviche with togarashi typically includes very thinly sliced tuna filets with traditional Japanese seasoning.
Last Thoughts on Peruvian Food
Peru isn’t the largest South American country, but it offers big, bold flavors and an eclectic mix of dishes inspired by cuisines from around the globe. The country’s cuisine is a fusion of flavors from the Incan, Spanish, African, Chinese, and Japanese people who have lived in the region through the centuries. The bottom line is that you can’t truly know the flavors of South America without trying Peruvian foods.
If you are in the Hollywood area, visit us today and try our food.