Whatever weight I lost on the Machu Picchu trek I gained back in my week in Lima. Food. There is so much savouring connotation to this one word. Peru specifically has been regularly recognised as a “leading contender for several prestigious” gastronomical awards. There is such diversity in Peruvian cuisine and the fact that I was staying with Dee’s family added that one-of-a-kind home-made taste. We managed to have a different Peruvian specialty every day, with Ceviche thrown in more than once.
I’m going to attempt to critique the food I ate. But first a bit about me. I seriously like to eat everything. I think I might even have a problem with understanding taste, because everything taste really good but for the most part I don’t even know what I’m eating. So let’s see how we go. I want to remember all the food I ate, so this will serve as a good reminder.
Let’s start with Ceviche, the most well known and the must try of the country. This photo is from the beach in Asia with the accompaniments of crumbed cauliflower, polenta, onions and of course lemon. Peruvians love lemon in general and will find any chance to add it to their dishes. Me and Dee shared this plate, but usually I found that Ceviche was an entree meal served in a much smaller portion. The texture is pleasantly resistant to allow for a few bites before it slides down your throat, the lemon adds a mild tang and it overall has a light, fresh feeling when it settles in your stomach. I think the texture is the biggest challenge. If you don’t like the feel of a fleshy fish perhaps it’s not the dish for you. Apparently it’s good for a hangover but overall it’s delicious and better eaten as a full meal as opposed to an entree.
On the JS scale: 9/10
Tacu tacu. Beans. Fried beans. Make sure you’re comfortable with whoever you’re sharing the room with that night because .. beans. This is quite a heavy meal, usually eaten with either steak or chicken and served with rice. My advice is to eat it when you’re really hungry. Beans are a type of legume that might not be everyone’s favourite meal, but when they’re fried, mixed through with rice and topped with either the juice of a chicken or some other salsa, it turns out to be a tasty mush, easy to swallow, full of flavour and sits comfortably in your stomach.
On the JS scale: 8/10
Tamal. A corn-based dough mixed with chicken and steamed inside a banana leaf, which I was lucky to have home-made for breakfast one day. As you peel open the banana leaf the warmth of the escaping steam makes it a heartening meal. It’s not so much a saucy rich flavouring meal, but the warmth early in the day and the mushy texture with long pieces of chicken makes it a good wake up call and in my opinion and better breakfast than a piece of bread.
On the JS scale: 7/10
Chifa. Oriental food. Asian food. Chinese food cooked in Peru. Peruvians will tell you it’s one of the greatest take out foods, but I beg to differ. If you’re in Peru, stick with the Peruvian food. Perhaps because Australia is so close to Asia or perhaps because the one dish I had in the take-away restaurant wasn’t great but I found it heavy, oily and too much. I had a dish of tallarines (noodles) with chicken and vegetables and after the meal felt quite bloated without the satisfaction of a good meal.
On the JS scale: 2/10
Anticuchos. Meat! Definitely not a meal for a vegetarian. It’s not only your regular beef, but the heart of the cow itself. (Although Dee only told me that once I had eaten all the meat on the stick.) I ate this meal twice. Once in the oh so lovely Asia, and the second time at a food market on the side of the street. It’s not hard to guess which one tasted better. The one from the market was delicious! It was served with Peruvian corn and potato. The meat was just so juicy and full of flavour and the fullness of the corn added just the right touch.
On the JS scale: 10/10
Picarones. Dessert. More specifically, fried dessert. This is traditionally eaten just after a serving of anticuchos. The main ingredient is sweet potato, which is coated with a Chancaca syrup (unrefined sugar). Without the syrup, I found the Picarones a little bland and mushy but their texture is perfect to absorb the rich syrup and so together it makes for a sweet dessert.
On the JS scale: 7/10
Marcianos. This is just your average zooper dooper, icy-pole, frozen fruit flavour… every country has their own word to for this fruity, icy goodness. It’s not really a “typical” Peruvian meal, but I thought I would throw it in as it’s the cheap summer snack on the dry streets of Peru. I definitely enjoyed buying a marciano and tasting the diverse range of Peruvian tropical fruit on offer. (My personal favourite was Lucuma, which I like to describe as a combination of papaya and mango).
On the JS scale: 7/10
Mazamorra. Quite easy to make as there are pre-powdered options easily accessible in the supermarket. With a texture mid way between warm jelly and pudding, this dessert is made of purple corn and fruit. It tastes a little like the inside of a blackberry pie filling. I personally feel like it tastes better when it’s added to another food, so without another substance it’s like something is lacking. I did try it once with sweet rice, which hit that missing spot.
On the JS scale: 6/10