Lima, Peru: Culinary Capital of the World and a Foodie’s Paradise (Part 1)
At the end of July, my fellow remotes and I said goodbye to Santiago, Chile and traveled to Lima, Peru to begin month 2 of our yearlong journey around the world. Lima is nestled along the western coast of South America and at first glance resembles the state of California if it were given a massive dose of prednisone! I know, I know. That was a nerdy medical analogy!
Cushingoid features aside, the spring like weather of Lima was a welcomed change from the frigid temperatures of Santiago, Chile. Although I must admit, the daily gray skies and lack of sun were an ever present reminder that Lima was still experiencing winter. As if to soften the sting of less than optimal weather, Lima granted us delectable cuisine that proved the real star of this city. From cultural favorites to signature drinks, my belly was happy from the day we landed until the day we said our goodbyes four weeks later. I’m excited to share some of the highlights with you! So let’s dig in! No pun intended! Well, maybe a little bit intended! :-)
1. Ceviche. Ahhh! Delicious, citrusy, tangy, flavorful ceviche. This raw fish entree is perhaps Peru’s most popular cuisine. You will find it on the menu of every Peruvian restaurant and it’s one of the most recommended authentic Peruvian dishes. Ceviche always delivered a powerhouse of flavor! The primary and main ingredient is raw fish “cooked” by teeny, tiny limes known in South America as “limon(s)”. Limons are the magic that make ceviche happen! You’ll also find onion, cilantro (or coriander per my European remotes), choclo (large kernel corn), cancha (a Peruvian roasted corn) and a slice of sweet potato. Avocado is also a welcomed addition to many Peruvian ceviches. But Nina, raw fish?!?! And a whole bowl of it?!?! Trust me. Don’t knock it until you try it!
2. Pisco Sours (remember those?!?). I must confess. I owe Peru an apology. In my previous post on Chilean foods, I touted Pisco Sours as the official drink of Chile. Turns out, Peru is the country that REALLY deserves that distinction! Peru is the actual birthplace of the Pisco Sour. In fact, there’s even a town in Peru that bears the name Pisco! Admittedly, I couldn’t tell the difference in the cocktails from one country to the next but we’ll just keep that our little secret! And just in case you forgot, the Pisco Sour is composed of pisco (a grape brandy), limon/lime juice, egg white and simple syrup. You can also read about pisco sours and other Chilean favorites in my first blog post!
3. Chilcano. As if to prove it’s not a one trick pony, Peru also boasts of the Chilcano cocktail. Much lighter and refreshing than the pisco sour, the Chilcano is a blend of pisco, ginger ale and lime. More glamorous and adventurous versions include passion fruit, coca leaves (more on that in my upcoming post on Cusco, Peru!), mango and guava. The possibilities are endless!
4. Aguadito de Pollo. Remember la cazuela from Santiago, Chile? In continuing the trend of comforting and hearty soups, Lima gave us aguadito de pollo — a green chicken soup consisting of rice, choclo, potatoes, pimiento rojos (red bell peppers) and various veggies. The vibrant green color is the result of cilantro! Lots and lots of cilantro! After a month in Lima, I’m pretty sure cilantro is now my favorite herb! There’s one more interesting fact about aguadito de pollo. Word on the street is that in addition to being a great option for lunch or brunch, it has the power to “levanta muertos”, or to “wake from the dead”. Translation: it’s great late night or next day hangover food. I admit, I can’t speak to this resurrecting power! LOL! If you’re visiting Lima, TANTA was where I found the best version of aguadito de pollo. It was also one of my favorite Lima restaurants.
5. Picarones. Dessert time! Enter picarones — a donut like pastry created in Peru during the time of Spanish rule. The main ingredients are…wait for it…PUMPKIN and SWEET POTATO! And while those ingredients may have instantly catapulted your thoughts to holiday favorites such as sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie and candied yams, picarones possess a very mild and subtle flavor. I likened them to the beignets of my beloved NOLA sans the powdered sugar. Instead of powdered sugar, picarones are drizzled ever so lightly with a molasses based syrup known as chancaca. Picarones weren’t my favorite Peruvian food but if given the opportunity, I’d certainly encourage you to try them at least once!
After all this talk of food, is your mouth watering yet? Is your tummy rumbling with hunger ? If so, stay tuned for Part 2! And if you’ve been to Peru, did you try any of these foods? What was your favorite?
If you enjoyed Part 1 of Lima’s amazing food, make sure you dig into Part 2! Pun, definitely intended!