What's the food like in Peru?
Peruvian cuisine combines indigenous traditions with influences brought over by immigrant populations, which results in a surprising variety that utilises the bounties of the country's highlands, tropical rainforests and ocean. Staples include corn, potatoes (there are over 2,000 varieties in Peru), legumes and quinoa, a 'supergrain' that has taken the health food world by storm across the globe. The Spanish brought with them rice, wheat, beef, pork and chicken, which now also form a fundamental part of Peruvian cuisine.
Native meats popular with Peruvians include alpaca, noted for its low cholesterol and high protein content, and cuy, or guinea pig in English, which is typically roasted and served whole. With over 2,400 kilometres of coastline, seafood is a speciality along the coast with ceviche one of Peru's most famous culinary exports. Raw fish is cured with lime juice and marinated with onions, chillies and coriander to form a tangy and delicate textured dish that sushi-lovers will no doubt enjoy.
Meat generally accompanies the main meal in Peru so meat-free options may be limited in traditional Peruvian eateries though restaurants catering to tourists usually have a vegetarian section that will include local classics such as papas a la Huancaina - cold potatoes served with a cheese sauce spiced with chillies - and palta rellena - avocados stuffed with onion, tomato and mayonnaise alongside quinoa vegetable soup and international dishes devoid of meat. Vegetarians will find plenty of options in Cusco especially.
There's a good selection of beverages in Peru with delicious native drinks including chicha morada, made from purple maize spiced with clove, cinnamon, sugar and pineapple, and the cultural icon that is Inca Kola, a lemongrass-flavoured soda that is luminous yellow in colour and beats Coca Cola in sales. Those looking for something stronger need look no further than the ubiquitous Pisco sour, an alcoholic cocktail made from the country's national liquor along with egg whites, syrup, bitters and ice. Beer is also popular in Peru with Cuzqueña one of the most popular local brands.