Guinea pig: the other other white meat?
June 29, 2006 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Travelling to Peru next week, and looking for recommended local food/drink.....

My wife and I will be travelling to Cuzco and the Sacred Valley, the Amazon Basin around Puerto Maldonado, and will have a couple days in Lima as well. Any recommendations or must-tries as far as local food and drink go? I've heard about guinea pig and chicha and want to try those (any advice?), but I'm wondering what other favorites to be on the lookout for.
posted by sbrollins to Travel & Transportation around Peru (21 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
If you plan on trying guinea pig, keep in mind you'll have to place your order a few hours in advance... maybe even a day to give them time to prepare it (I went to Cusco last month and tried to order some during the last day of my trip, but couldn't because of the necessary delay).

Alpaca meat is pretty good (kinda tastes like a cross between chicken and beef).

Also, if you like margaritas, you'll love pisco sours :)
posted by em3 at 3:21 PM on June 29, 2006

Dude, ayahuasca.
posted by borkingchikapa at 3:23 PM on June 29, 2006

Do you by any chance have comcast cable with on demand? If so, you can watch Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations in Peru. I just saw it the other night and it was very interesting, though I don't remember a single recommendation.
posted by necessitas at 4:02 PM on June 29, 2006

Generally, I found Peruvian food to be pretty dull--most every restaurant has about 5 dishes--chicken, fish, steak, spaghetti, etc., none of which is very good.
If you find a roast chicken restaturant, those are usually the best.
However, the pureed vegetable soups are good, and the tamales you can buy on the street.
I also vote for the pisco sour!
posted by exceptinsects at 4:42 PM on June 29, 2006

Pisco sour. Cheviche.
posted by keijo at 7:05 PM on June 29, 2006

Unlike exceptinsects, I thought the food in Peru was excellent. Lots of simple things were great. It's funny how good basic things like choclo (ears of corn with giant kernels) and seco de cabrito (kid with rice and beans) can be when prepared well. I also really liked the yucca (cassava) as a starch. Tastier than potatoes.

Keep in mind that there's chicha de jora (corn beer, which has some of the odd flavors of Belgian geuzes and lambics) and chicha morada (a sweet corn drink). You might like one, but not the other.

Mmm... pisco sours...
posted by aneel at 12:51 AM on June 30, 2006

I know its only a pulse/grain but I liked quinoa, which I'd never had before. Alpaca was good but unremarkable. Lake Titicaca Trout Sashimi was good.

I prefered Caipirinas to the Pisco Sours - not too keen on the egg white...

Cusco was the first place I drank Cusquena - but you can buy that in the UK now.

And of course you can't miss out on Matte de Coca (for the altitude, don't you know)
posted by SpacemanRed at 5:47 AM on June 30, 2006

Second on the mate--definitely bring back some Mate de Coca teabags, or just buy some coca leaves to brew for tea or to chew for those big hikes in the Andes. I also bought some "tri-mate" teabags while I was there--some sort of mix of coca leaves and two other probably illegal plants. The last time I drank a mug of this stuff it kind of made my tounge numb, so maybe it's time to throw it out.

If you go to the cathedral, check out the painting of the Last Supper inside. Jesus and the disciples are about to dig into a guinea pig on a plate. When I was there, it wasn't a problem to order one. A little scary looking on the plate surrounded by veggies. Tasted kind of like turkey.

You will enjoy everything about your trip. Have fun!
posted by printchick at 7:36 AM on June 30, 2006

I liked rocoto relleno when I spent time in Arequipa. It's a spicy stuffed pepper.

I still wonder what radioactive substance gives Inca Kola its color :-)
posted by lukemeister at 12:47 PM on July 5, 2006

(This is from my friend Katie, who was in Peru for four months.)


If you're going to Peru, everyone will want to sell you things all the time. Especially food. Resist the temptation to keep eating and eating when you first get there. A lot of food + 4000 meters of altitude will make you feel awful. That being said, choose wisely and eat the good stuff.

1. Only eat ceviche along the coast. Fish that comes into Cusco/Sacred Valley area isn't fresh.

2. Chicha comes in a few forms. The non-alcoholic version is purple and should have bits of apple and pineapple floating on the top and is really nice. You should be wary of the alcoholic version-- this is a good place to pick up a parasite. Be careful about food on the streets, but it's sometimes really good. You won't find anywhere that makes better fried yuca.

3. If you want guinea pig (cuy), go to an authentic picanteria for lunch. In Cusco, go to La Chomba on Tullumayu Street. It's an experience.

4. If you're going to be in Arequipa, make sure to eat the bread with 3 points. You'll probably end up in the Pisaq market if you're touring the Sacred Valley, so make sure to get freshly baked bread from one of the local ovens. The big, round, wheat bread has a special name that I can't remember.

5. For desserts, go to El Buen Pastor in San Blas, Cusco. Eat a fosforo. Or anything really. La Granja Heidi in San Blas makes great yogurts.

6. The best tamales in Cusco are sold by people with baskets in front of Gato's Market in the Plaza de Armas. Make sure to get both the sweet and salty kinds.

7. Eat Choco Soda, a packaged product that's sold by just about every street vendor. Princesa and Sublime (2 types of chocolate) are sold by Nestle, but were originally Peruvian.

8. Eat a lot of fruit, especially in the jungle. If you get the chance, try the fruit that grows around cocoa seeds. Pakay is also really good, and the mangoes will make you orgasm.

9. I second drinking mate of all kinds. Mate de coca really does help with altitude sickness and mate de manzanilla will help with any throat problems. Ask any Peruvian and they'll have a mate for your ailment. It's also less expensive than some bottled drinks and is safe to drink because it's boiled.
posted by danb at 1:54 PM on May 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

In a couple of places I found "quinotto", like risotto but with quinoa. It wasn't half bad.

I'm not a huge fan of pisco sours, but pisco all by itself can be really great -- it's very similar to grappa, and the "pisco Italiano" is made exactly the same was as grappa.
posted by gurple at 8:24 PM on May 2, 2007

posted by gurple at 8:25 PM on May 2, 2007

Cuy tastes like greasy dark meat chicken, pisco like grape tequila. The food in the highlands is generally quite bland. Alpaca is decent mostly because it is only served in decent places. Pollo a la plancha is always safe. And ayahuasca will probably just make you sick.
posted by arruns at 11:32 PM on May 2, 2007

Also, previously.

While you're in Lima, try some Chifa (chinese-peruvian food) if you can. Otherwise, ceviche near the ocean and quinoa / potatoes / yucca / corn in the mountains. If you can find a place that makes good papas a la huancaína, you're golden.

Also, see here for Peruvian food porn.
posted by LMGM at 3:17 AM on May 3, 2007

Lake Titicaca Trout Sashimi was good.
I would just like to point out that you should avoid eating raw freshwater fish, it can have parasites in it that will make you very sick.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:10 AM on May 3, 2007

Check out a restaurant called 'Govindas' - they have them in most cities in Peru. The most amazing vegatarian food. Seriously. A mixture of Indian & Peruvian stuff, run by Hari Krishnas. Not sure how long people & food have to be in a place before it is considered local... but I think this fits the bill.
posted by algreer at 1:05 PM on May 3, 2007

My favourites in Peru were lomo saltado (beef, capsicum, onion and fries, stir fried); masato (an alcoholic drink brewed from manioc in the jungle areas - I don't know whether you'll find it in Puerto Maldonado though, I had it in Amazonas); patarashca of fish, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in embers; cabrito (goat) prepared in various ways and very popular on the north coast. You should also try all the local sodas and beers, but that goes without saying. I didn't care for guinea pig, it's a bit too fatty. Oh another thing that might be available in the jungle is suri, palm grubs. Worth trying, just to say you did :)
posted by nomis at 10:35 PM on May 3, 2007

You have to have the ice cream; it's amazing. They have some great flavors and it's super creamy.
posted by bluefly at 5:48 AM on May 4, 2007

Yummy -- Frog Juice in High Demand in Peru.
posted by ericb at 11:00 AM on May 4, 2007

Ceviche and ayahuasca (not together). For the latter, try 'making friends' at the dreadlock/tattoo parlours in Cuzco...
posted by runkelfinker at 10:14 AM on May 7, 2007

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