Welcome travelers and Traveling Foody fans. We are very excited about this feature on Peru. Our friend Phil just returned from a 3 week adventure to Peru and we had a wonderful conversation with him about his excursion into Peruvian country, culture, and food.
First of all, what’s all the hubbub with Peru? Okay, so they have llamas and their wool makes for wonderful material. What makes Peru a destination? Is it food? Is it the culture? Is it the topography? We believe it’s all the above and much more.
Get with it and see what Phil had to say about Peru.
TTF: What was it about Peru that attracted you to travel there?
PHIL: I’ve always wanted to visit Machu Picchu since I was a kid, so I jumped at the chance to get on this hike.
TTF: What parts of Peru did you visit?
PHIL: Cuzco and the Sacred Valley.
TTF: Like many countries, various cultures migrate to them. What other types of nationalities are living in Peru?
PHIL: Many Chinese immigrated there in the 1900’s for good paying labor. Germans & Israelis came here in the 1950’s. Canadians, U.S. Americans and to a lesser part, British also are here.
TTF: What was your favorite meal in Peru?
PHIL: So many great places to eat and so many dishes! My favorite restaurant was El Encuentro. It was a vegan joint with meat analogs.
I ate here a lot while I was on my own, and frequently while the carnivores were doing their own things.
Best meal was probably a potato & cheese dish.
Many, many dishes had a sauce of cilantro. This dish had that plus clove. The cheese was fresh guinea pig cheese.
The Peruvians have over 300 varieties of potatoes; from blue to purple to red. Black & white are common as well.
TTF: What was your fondest memory visiting Peru?
PHIL: Climbing Wayna Picchu (the mountain behind all the ‘postcard’ shots’ of Machu Picchu) and looking down on Machu Picchu. A very memorable time. It was hard to be alone up there, but the vibes were pretty intense.
TTF: Was it easy to get around?
PHIL: Yep, even though my Spanish was close to non-existent, mini-buses & taxis were easy to use and get to where you were going. Cheap too!
TTF: Would you visit again?
PHIL: Visit? Hell I’m thinking of moving there!
Thank you very much Phil for your input and time with us.
Phil has been a traveler for most of his life and a great friend of the Traveling Foody family for many years. We can’t wait to see what adventures he will experience next and wish him safe travels and to eat well.
Some of Phil’s adventures were in the Cuzco area, which is the old capital of Peru. What about the newer capital? Well, the current capital is Lima and is located on the central coast of Peru. Compared to other cities in the country, Lima is by far the largest city with more than one quarter of the entire population of Peru living there. For our fellow beach goers, the Miraflores district presents the traveler with wonderful views of rocks and tides. One of the highlights for the museum enthusiast will be the Museo Larco. This Museum is known globally for its Erotic Gallery. The gallery is dedicated to erotic sculpture art which date over a thousand years old. And to let you in on how popular Erotic Art in Peru is, you will find reproductions of the art all around Peru.
Quick tip time: Cash is defiantly the king compared to card. The currency in Peru is called “Nuevo Sol.” Even though, shops might have an old credit card sign in the window does not mean they are still accepting them. So bring your cash. Preferably carry smaller bills for those bargains. Another tip is keeping your bills clean and wrinkles free. Like many South American countries, some places will take your cash. But if it is ripped or old they might think it’s fake.
Let’s talk food and drink.
When in Rome you do as the Romans. When in Peru it’s all about Pico! Pico is a brandy which is made from the grape and is appreciated all over the Peruvian coast. There are those who believe that the neighboring coastal country of Chile was the true birthplace of the nectar of the gods. Guess what? We don’t care where the origins of this particular nectar originated from. What we care about is that it’s good and good for your spirits. When we talk about Chile, we will say it’s from their country because that’s what the locals will tell us. The most popular cocktail on the South American Pacific is Pisco Sours. If you are not into the spirit of things, you might want to have a local brew. Cusqueña is where you want to direct your brew thirst.
Does your food run the house or do you run around your food? That’s right. We are speaking of the traditional dish of cuy. In many regions of the world, cuy is referred to as guinea pig. That’s right. Guinea pig. Cuy is usually prepared whole, roasted or grilled, with the head on.
Like many South American coastal regions, ceviche is a big deal and almost on everyone’s plate.
We heard Phil talking about the many varieties of potato that grow in and around Peru. But, Peru also has very large avocado and they are not afraid to use them. These two ingredients make up a traditional casserole dish called Causa and is served cold.
Phil also talked about the Chinese immigrants. The Chinese settlers created a dish called Lomo Saltado,which is a stir-fry consisting of beef, tomatoes, peppers, and onions mixed in with potatoes and soy sauce served over rice. The Chinese culinary influence can also be found in a very popular dish called Pollo a la Brasa which is a Peruvian style roasted chicken using soy sauces marinade that have been infused with peppers, garlic, and cumin for a salty – smoky taste.
For those who love their meats, peruvians dish it up…more like skewer it up. Anticuchos are marinated skewers of meat grilled to perfection. You can find them in many locations from restaurants to street carts.
Speaking of meat, how about some alpaca? That’s right. Like many other animals, these are not only used for their wool. We have never tried the alpaca llama but we understand that it’s similar to buffalo or grass fed beef that’s more on a gamier side.
Let’s not forget that Peruvians have a sweet tooth. One of the favorites in the country is the lúcuma. Lúcuma is a fruit that resembles the mango. Its custardy flavor is comparable to maple syrup. Many recipes call for the fruit for flavoring a dessert. Yum!
We would like to leave you with some Peruvian recipes:
The Potato cheese dish Phil was talking about is called Papa a la Huancaína – Potatoes in Spicy Cheese Sauce.
- 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 Cup chopped onion
- 3-4 Yellow aji amarillo chile peppers
- 2 Cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Cups white farmer’s cheese (queso freso)
- 4 Saltine crackers
- 3/4 Cup evaporated milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
Remove seeds from yellow chile peppers and chop into 1 inch pieces. Sauté onion, garlic, and chile peppers in the oil until onion is softened, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
Place onion/chile mixture in a food processor or blender. Add evaporated milk and blend. Add cheese and crackers and blend until smooth. Sauce should be fairly thick. Thicken sauce with more saltines or thin sauce with milk if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Potato Preparation and Serving the dish:
- 8 yellow or while potatoes
- Huancaína sauce
- Lettuce leaves
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- 8 large black olives, halved
Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling and add the potatoes. Boil potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain water from potatoes and let cool. Slice potatoes and arrange on top of the lettuce leaves.
Pour huancaína sauce over potatoes, and garnish with slices of hard-boiled egg and black olive halves.
Another dish we would like to share with you is Anticuchos de Carne – Grilled Beef Anticuchos
- 12 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1/4 cup mild chile pepper paste (aji panca, if available)
- 1/2 cup vinegar, divided
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
- 2-3 pounds steak (sirloin, tenderloin)
- Wooden skewers
Cut beef into 2 inch chunks and place in a nonreactive bowl or dish. Mash the garlic with a rock, or with a mortar and pestle.
Make the marinade: in a bowl, mix the crushed garlic, ¼ cup of the vinegar, ¼ cup chile pepper paste, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper.
Pour the marinade over the beef and mix well. Marinade beef overnight in the refrigerator.
Prepare the grill. Place the beef onto the skewers (about 4 pieces of beef on each skewer). Make a basting mixture of ½ cup vegetable oil, ¼ cup vinegar, and a pinch of cumin.
Grill the skewers for about 5 minutes on each side, or to desired finish. Baste beef several times during cooking.
Thanks again Phil for your time and invigorating conversation. Thank you to all the readers of the Traveling Foody. Remember to keep you minds and stomachs open and your. Keep on exploring and we will see you soon. We leave you with a few more photos from our good friend Phil.
-The Traveling Foody