Posted by: Jessie Kwak | November 4, 2009

Two months in Peru, PART 3: Wined and dined.

After two months in Peru, Rob and Jessie take a look back and try to put their fingers on just what it is that’s kept them here so long. Click here for parts One (Peruvian People) and Two (Peruvian Transportation).

In Part 3: You get the aeropuerto and I’ll get the tacu tacu.

One of my favorite parts of travel is sitting down at a restaurant, pointing at an unknown item on the menu, and seeing what they bring me. In Peru it’s been almost uniformly delicious, and almost entirely meat-based.

Peru has three main regions: coast, sierra, and jungle, and though the cities of each region have similar cuisine (coast–fish! sierra–cuy and potatoes! jungle–not sure, since we haven’t been there yet!), each city prides itself on their typical local dishes that you simply must try.

And try them we have.

Every Wednesday we’ll be posting our Midweek Snack, a column about the food we eat, the restaurants we eat it at, and the people who cook it. We plan to post reviews, recipes and plenty of photos. To start it off in today’s recap we’ll review our food journey so far.

You went to Peru? Did you eat cuy?

Lunch in La Merced restaurant

Cuy! We have to start with that, don’t we? Everyone’s favorite childhood pet, served up golden-brown with a tasty sauce! I of course had to try it when we were in Huaraz, but since we had no camera with us (what!!) I’ll have to send you over to Miss Chloé’s fantastic blog to see a photo of the cute little guinea pig that I ate.

For the record, Rob made a vow not to touch cuy, and he has firmly lived by it.

Like most of the Peruvian population, Rob is living instead on ice cream and pollo a la brasa (roast chicken with french fries). Both are readily available at every street corner.

Until moving into our new place in Huanchaco we’ve eaten nearly every meal in a restaurant. I’m not entirely sure what Peruvians eat in their own homes, but for those of us doomed to eat every meal out, our options are: pollo a la brasa , comida criollo (traditional food, such as lomo saltado: beef stir-fried with french fries, onions, and peppers), and chifa.

According to Jesús of Condor’s House in Lima, chifa isn’t Chinese, it’s Peruvian. “If you go to China, they won’t have chifa.” It’s really not that great.

Raw fish is awesome!

ceviche in El Muelle, Barranco, Lima

Rob and I both love sushi, and it turns out that Peru’s famous coastal dish, ceviche, is just another example of delicious fish au natural. Ceviche is raw fish sliced and marinated in lime juice, generally served with yucca and sweet potatoes. Everyone claims to have the best regional ceviche, but although we’ve tried it many places, I don’t know that I could choose my favorite.

We raved about El Muelle in Barranco, in particular because of their delicious conchitas a la parmesana. Huanchaco’s ceviche tends to be quite spicy, and Chiclayo’s contained the greatest percentage by far of things that I couldn’t eat (shells, etc.).

We’ve even tried ceviche in the Andes, at a delicious little place in Tarma, and back in Lima we came across a sushi joint in Miraflores that served ceviche sushi, complete with a mayonnaise-lime dipping sauce. That, my friends, was incredible.

Para tomar?

Mug of Nescafe

The soda of choice here is Inca Cola, a sugary, syrupy, fizzy-yellow concoction that tastes a bit like bubble gum. If you don’t want that, you can buy the most incredible fruit juices for just a few soles.

Though much of the coffee here is Nescafé, I’ve also had hands-down way better coffee than I ever found in England. Even the Peruvian instant coffee brands like Altomayo are better than fresh-brewed British coffee. (Confession time: I’m actually starting to like Altomayo).

Beer is unsatisfying and wine is too sweet.

glass of beer, peruvian microbrew

I’ll admit that the Elysian has ruined my beer taste buds with their massively deliciously hoppy recipes, but still! We’ve gone on a search for good Peruvian microbrews and come up with a few: Industrias de Tomás, Cerveceria Andina, and others, but sadly our most satisfying beer experience was with imported British beer.

For some reason Peruvians seem to believe that drinking cold beer can make you sick, so it’s often hard to find a place that serves beer “helado,” or chilled. After my experience in Venezuela where if beer wasn’t straight out of the freezer Venezuelans would send it back, this is a bit strange. (Peruvian beer really has even less going for it when it’s at room temperature.)

Oh. And I’ve never seen a girl (or anyone) drink Quara.

I’m really looking forward to going down to Ica with Mama and Papa Kwak to do some wine tasting, since all the Peruvian wine I’ve tried is too sweet. I’ve always been a big proponent of drinking local wine (easy to do when you’re blessed to live in Washington State), but here I’m terrified of every bottle with a Peruvian label, after coming across one that tasted like uber-sugary raison-water that someone had used to put their cigarettes out in.

Settling in

Peru is an amazing place, full of great people, quirky but great transportation, and delicious food. Tune in tomorrow when we explore the natural beauty and fascinating archaeology we’ve found here, as well.

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