Peru: Weird, wonderful and in hot demand

By Elise Scott

Peruvian food is the hot cuisine trend right now. Elise Scott lists seven specialities contributing to the clamour.
View of Miraflores Park, Lima. Photo / 123RF
View of Miraflores Park, Lima. Photo / 123RF

From corn soft drink to pumpkin-tasting icecream, Peru is a surprising burst of flavours and colours.

Visiting one of Lima's produce markets can be an activity in itself. All your usual fruits and vegetables make an appearance but there's also a fascinating array of hanging animal parts, odd-looking fruits, jars of preserved vegetables and vibrant spices.

Lima is starting to win a reputation for high-quality food and produce, with a growing focus on buying local. In this big city of nearly 9 million, you'll also find excellent western-inspired food - especially in the tourist district of Miraflores. But if you want to experience some of the local cuisine, try these seven local flavours:

CEVICHE

You can't walk down a street in Lima without bumping into a cebicheria - the selling place of Peru's traditional dish.

Peruvian ceviche. Photo / Getty Images
Peruvian ceviche. Photo / Getty Images


It's raw fish cooked lightly in the acid from tart limes - and given Lima's proximity to the ocean, it's one of the best ways to sample the city's fresh seafood.

Although there are many variations, you can't make a true Peruvian ceviche without lime, onion, chilli and salt. La Mar Cebicheria serves dozens of different ceviches and changes its menu daily, using the freshest fish or seafood. Or you can opt to try this delicacy at a small bar in a local produce market.

CAUSA

Peru has about 4000 types of potatoes. Really. So you can bet they know how to do potato dishes. Of the more well-known is Causa, which is circular, layered mashed potato broken up with layers of avocado and a vegetable or meat mix, and served cold.

LUCUMA ICECREAM

Lucuma is technically a fruit but it tastes a bit like caramel-infused pumpkin or sweet potato. So it may seem a little odd to discover it in icecream. But in Peru you can find it in most icecream stores and it's actually pretty good - think pumpkin pie in the United States or Canada. You can also find it in smoothies throughout Lima.

CHICHA MORADA

Purple corn soft drink. Yep. That's one of Peru's favourite local beverages. The drink, which is more like a thick juice, is made from dried Peruvian purple corn and pineapple - sometimes with added cinnamon, clove or sugar. It's sweet and served cold and pops up on many menus around Peru.

ALPACA

They're so cute it seems odd when alpaca is served on your plate. Especially if you're from a country that considers alpaca wool part of expensive attire. But in some parts of Peru, particularly in mountain cities like Arequipa, the cousin of the larger llama is a common dish. It's served in stews and as steaks, and tastes like lamb with a hint of pork.

PISCO SOUR

Despite some contention with neighbouring Chile over the origins of pisco, Peru claims this grape-made spirit as its own.

Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru. Photo / Getty Images
Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru. Photo / Getty Images


You can drink pisco with basically anything - think of it a bit like vodka. But one of the best ways to try this local spirit is mixed with lime, egg-white and sugar syrup - your traditional "pisco sour". You'd be hard pressed to find a licensed bar or restaurant in Lima that doesn't make a good one. Beware, however, pisco does pack a punch - some brands are made of 42 per cent alcohol.

GUINEA PIG (CUY)

Peruvians in the Andean region have been eating guinea pig for thousands of years. In those towns you'll often find it roasted on sticks but in Lima, it's more likely to be on a fancy menu as a crispy skinned slice of delicate meat or in a gyoza or dumpling.

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Getting there

Latam flies daily services from Auckland to Lima, via Santiago, with return Economy Class fares starting from $1319.

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