Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Amazing Fusion

This May, I was completely unprepared for just one aspect of my Perú tour.
Was it flying for the first time? Making my card work at ATMs? (Well maybe...) No! It was the food. The heavenly food of Perú.

Snack foods, breakfast, fine dining--you name it. There was never a boring day. So, if you're a foodie like me, get ready for some watering taste buds.

Before I delve into the whirlwind of dishes you can try in Perú, here's some context. Peruvian food is a unique, rich blend of Spanish, indigenous, and Asian flavors. The country is 50% Indigenous and has large populations of mestizos and Chinese or Japanese Peruvians, among others, so you know the food is like no other. The 4th best restaurant in the world is supposedly in Lima, the capital. So you know they don't joke about their cooking.

Entrees. The best I tried was trucha cusqueña (Cusco-style trout), with its crispy kiwicha breading and decadent elderberry wine sauce. A close second was arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) that blends savory herbs, hominy, peas, cilantro and beer in its mysterious cooking process. Then there's Peruvian cebiche which totally blows Mexican cebiche out of the water because the trout is marinated in the richest lime juice and Andean peppers, then topped with salty, crunchy canchas (a flakier version of Corn Nuts). Cuy (guinea pig) is also a must-try dish; people either love it or hate it. That aside, almost every entree has potatoes...well, they are native to Perú, after all. The strangest was yellow with a powdery texture.
trucha cusqueña

cuy (Guinea Pig)
Snacks for the road: Canchas. They're a more slender, easier-to-chew version of Corn Nuts. The ones I tried in Cusco were purple, speckled yellow, deep fried and salted. You can also buy habas, crispy lima-bean snacks that have been dried and flavored with either salt, lime, or a sweet coating (like salted vs. honey-roasted peanuts). Kiwicha granola bars are good too. Kiwicha is like quinoa. But if you're lactose intolerant, BEWARE. Some bars contain powdered milk.

And...drumroll...BEVERAGES. Peru has the best teas, juices and drinks. This is herbal tea central. Lemon verbena, lemongrass, coca, you name it--it's flavorful paradise. Coffee of course is wonderful. Most days you can get pineapple or papaya juice with your breakfast (and Peruvian papaya is SOOO much better than ours). Pisco sour is Perú's famous alcoholic beverage, made with Pisco (a brandy), egg white, simple syrup, lime, bitters, shaken, sometimes with Andean mint. But the best drink has no alcohol at all: chicha morada. A sweet, deep purple glass meets your lips and you'd never guess what's inside: boiled purple corn tea, spiced with cloves & cinnamon, simmered with limes, pineapple, apples and brown sugar. Then it's strained and chilled, and served to you like liquid Christmas.

The prep of pisco sour and the final product

Even the beverages on trains are awesome!

This was only a snapshot--there's still the smoothies, alpaca steak, chocolate, lomo saltado and eucalyptus sorbet. I hope you go to Perú and taste these wonders for yourself!
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