Tasting local food is always my greatest joy while traveling. Food is also something I am interested in learning about in a particular culture. Fortunately, Peru never fails to showcase its richness in food culture. Being nominated as the honorable superlative of “most likely to be experimental with her food”, I feel obliged to file an honest report in regards to the most authentic (or most scary-looking that no one else is willing to try) Peruvian food that I have tried.
1. Maracuya / Passion Fruit
Maracuya, or passion fruite, is a very popular local fruit in Peru. I first heard of “maracuya” when Profe ordered his all-time favorite juice combination at La Gran Fruta in Lima and when I took a sip of his drink, I was amazed. Maracuya, whose juice is orange-yellow, has a perfectly balanced taste between sweet and sour and also a unique, strong fruity taste. In Peru, a lot of bars in the restaurants like to mix maracuya juice with another local liquor, pisco, the combination of which is always fantastic.
Locations: La Gran Fruta, Papachos
Granadilla is a close relative of maracuya and it is another popular local fruit. I didn’t get a chance to eat the fruit of maracuya but I did try the fruit of granadilla several times. Before being opened, granadilla looks like an orange with hard thin shell and a stem. To eat it, you need to crack open its orange shell and break the white peel. Then you will see the pulp which consists of translucent flesh and black seeds. Everything in the pulp is edible including the crunch seeds. You can either suck the pulp or use a spoon. The taste is mostly sweet and softer than that of maracuya. For this reason, granadilla juicy juice is best combined with maracuya juice because it softens the strong and sour taste in maracuya but still maintain the sweetness.
Locations: La Gran Fruta, Kushkafe, Chichero, Maras
Lúcuma is yet another local fruit that I can’t even find a definition of in a dictionary. To me, lúcuma is very mysterious because I have only eaten things that contain this flavor but have never seen the fruit itself. Nevertheless, I can still feel its unique taste. Unlike maracuya or granadilla, which are fresh and fruity, lúcuma flavor tastes buttery. I would like to imagine it as avocado with sweet taste. For this reason, it is often blended in ice cream or in cupcake topping. The first several sips may appear surprisingly good but after you eat more, it kind of gets creamy, but is still worth a try!
Locations: Kushkafe (milkshake), Capucchino Café (capucchino con helado de lúcuma)
If you have been in Cuzco for more than one day, you probably have heard of the word “alpaca” for more than once as the street venders are trying to sell you products of alpaca wool. As the No.1 local domestic animals, alpacas not only provide their wools for clothing but also provide their meat for cooking. If properly cooked, alpaca meat is a delicacy (sorry Jiayi). It is more tender than beef but chewier than chicken. It does not have specific smell like that in lamb and therefore is very flexible as to how to cook it. You can have it in Lomo de Alpaca Saltado, in brocheta (kebab) or alpaca filet. As long as it is properly cooked, it tastes good!
Location: Pachopapa, Kushkafe
I have introduced above mostly ingredients but Chiriuchu is a hodgepodge. In fact, it is the typical food that is only served during the two-day religious celebration of Corpus Christi. It is a cold dish that consists of roasted guinea pig (cuy), hen (gallina), sausages, fish eggs, seaweed from lake Titicaca, cheese, rocoto and a piece of fried pancake. I tried it with our other experimental eater Alexandra on the pre-celebration. At first, we ate each ingredient separately. Cute as it was (when it was alive), the guinea pig did not have much meat and was tasteless. The hen and fish eggs also didn’t have spice on them at all and were tasteless as well. On the contrary, the sausages, the seaweed and the pancake were very salty. As Alexandra was trying to eat the guinea pig with rocoto, it turned out that the rocoto was extremely spicy as well. Just as we were about to be disappointed by our food, the family next to us told us that we were eating in a wrong way. “Se come con un poco de todos,” they said. So we tried to pick a little bit of everything and eat them altogether at once. It turned out amazing. The tasteless meat balanced the saltiness in the pancake and the spiciness in the rocoto. The taste became perfect. I wanted to eat more but I was already full at that time. According to tradition, we were also supposed to drink chicha. Failing to find chicha, we decided to go for some cusqueñas, which are just as a local. Chiriuchu is probably the most traditional food I have tried on this trip. Although I can’t vouch for its taste, I do think it is worth a try for the purpose of cultural studies!
Location: Plaza de San Fransico en Cuzco
I am glad that despite of my experimental taste, I liked most of the food that I tried and was amazed by the great taste of Peruvian food.