Peru is famous for its food culture. From Ceviche to Lomo Saltado, Peruvian food has attracted people from all around the world to visit the country and experience its culture. However, most Peruvian food consists of either meat or seafood. There are very few options for vegetarians. As a vegetarian, I was informed by profe before we arrived that it would be difficult to survive as a vegetarian in Peru. I was prepared to eat pan every day, never expecting myself to enjoy the beauty of Peruvian cuisine. Fortunately, Peru has treated me very leniently, and I have been able to enjoy Peruvian food from a different perspective.
1. “Chifa con Veduras”
As a Peruvian adaption of the Chinese dish “Chao Fan” (Fried Rice), Chifa is similar to what I usually eat back at home in China. It is not difficult to make a plate of chifa, since one only needs to stir-fry some rice with various ingredients, which usually include vegetables and eggs. Although there is no standard recipe for a typical plate of fried rice, most “Chao Fan” in China does not have zucchini, as it is not a popular vegetable commonly used in Chinese dishes. The Peruvian “Chifa con Veduras” brings me the feeling of being at home and it makes my vegetarian life in Peru a lot easier.
2. “Vedura Saltada”
“Lomo Saltado” is a traditional Peruvian stir-fried dish that typically combines beefsteak with onions, tomatoes and other ingredients, served with fried potato slices and rice. We tried the dish on the first day we arrived at Peru, and we also watched the process of making it. The smell of “Lomo Saltado” made me want to quit vegetarian life, but thanks to the talent of the chef, I stayed vegetarian while I was able to get a sense of “Lomo Saltado” by having “Vedura Saltada”. Similar to “Lomo Saltado”, “Vedura Saltada” is a stir-fried dish that replaces beefsteak with mushrooms and keeps other ingredients. Although the texture of mushrooms is different from that of beefsteak, “Vedura Saltada” allows me to understand why “Lomo Saltado” is very popular among both tourists and locals.
3. Vegetarian dishes at Casa Elena
Every day, the chef at Casa Elena makes special vegetarian dishes for me, and they are really tasty. Usually, the chef replaces the meat with stir-fried vegetables that include mushrooms and tomatoes. I cannot say that taste of my dish is the same with others, but the smells are usually the same. Meanwhile, the soups at Casa Elena are usually vegetarian, and they have never let me down.
Overall, being a vegetarian in Peru is not as difficult as I thought it would be. Although it is not a big part of their culture, Peruvians are willing to respect people’s different choices and make adaptations to individual needs.