Peruvian food is flavorful yet not hot or overbearing. As you are dining in Peru, you begin to notice regional and cultural influences in the food you are eating. Quinoa is a staple in most all meals. Not only because Quinoa is higher in protein than most grains, but it also has a grainy texture, and a mild nutty flavor. These characteristics make it a flexible ingredient in salads or served as a nutritious alternative to white rice.
Regions for Native Ingredients
There are three distinct geographical regions for native ingredients that influence Peruvian food: the Andes, the Coast, and the Amazon. Peruvian food today is a combination of the flavors of each area along with the influences of Asian and African immigrants. Today's Peruvian food is a blend of these ingredients along with native and immigrant cooking styles.
Amazonian staples in foods include bananas, plantains, yucca, and fish. Soy sauce is used in Peruvian food and was brought to Peru by the Chinese and Japanese immigrants during the 19th century. Because of its location, coastal foods include fish, shrimp, and limes. Popular in the Andes is quinoa, alpaca, and guinea pig. In addition, there is a favorite Peruvian spice, Aji Amarillo. It is a medium spiced, fruity chili pepper which adds a complex flavor as well as a distinctive yellow/orange color to many dishes.
Pachamanca, a Quechua word for Mother Earth, is a cooking technique still practiced in the Andes. Popular with the Inca’s, Pachamanca is a type of barbecue. For example, to BBQ like the Inca’s; dig a pit, build a fire, and form a layer of rocks over the fire. Then place meat on the rocks and cover with more rocks. Often, yams are cooked like this too.
Lastly, as in many countries across the globe, Peruvian chefs have traveled the world and thus developed their recipes blending new tastes with traditional Peruvian food. If you are adventuresome in your eating, you will find foods that will interest your pallet. If you are not so adventuresome and like to stick with things you know you will like, you'll find the food of Peru accommodating. Enjoy our photo journey of some of the Peruvian foods we ate. Sorry, but the one thing you won’t see is Cuy or Guinea Pig. We couldn’t bring ourselves to eating a former pet in the US.
Be sure to check out our article on things to do in Cusco.
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