Just prior to leaving for Peru, I was told of the exceptional cuisine that Lima had to offer. Before, I learned about cuy (pronounced “coo-ee”) – guinea pig. I imagined it as the staple dish that would be on the menu of every high-end Peruvian restaurant. It’s apparently not that meal and is, in fact, an Andean animal and is served in restaurants nearer the mountains. Instead, I’ve found that there are a lot of other amazing tastes this country has to offer.
Only a few blocks from our hostel, the shopping/eating plaza called Larco Mar gave us our first taste of Peru. We ate at a restaurant called Mangos, a buffet-style restaurant our tour guide, Luis, took us to. Among the favorites was ceviche. It is essentially chopped fish marinated in lime. We also sampled a variety of potatoes (potatoes were domesticated in Peru) and other foods. Many of us tried chicha morada – a purple drink that is perhaps best described as a slightly carbonated grape juice that tastes like a cross between grape jelly beans and cinnamon chewing gum.
The following night, we enjoyed dinner at Tanta. Some tastes of the variety of foods we sampled are worth noting. Lucuma is a Peruvian drink that is best described as looking like beaten egg yolks, and tasting like a blend of egg nog and guava juice. Chirimoya, another Peruvian juice, looks like milk and tastes like the pinkish, warm milk left in a bowl of fruit loops, sopping up the cereal’s sugary flavor for about half an hour. The beef hearts were quite tasty – tasting just like “normal” beef and having a slightly chewier texture.
Joe, Reed, and I returned to Larcomar for lunch on one of our exploratory walks around Lima. We craved "chifa" - the Peruvian version of Chinese food. When Chinese immigrants came to Peru in the 19th century, they had to improvise and use Peruvian ingredients instead of their traditional ingredients for their food. Instead, we were coaxed into a place that had some amazing seafood. I suppose it makes sense that Lima, a city on the coast of a rich section of the Pacific Ocean (thanks to nutrients brought up from the cold Humboldt Current) would serve up top-notch tastes from the sea. Even Joe, who has had unfavorable experiences with seafood, was impressed. He could only take so much, though, so he let me finish off the octopus and squid.
So far, the tastes have been great. Still, I don’t want to leave here without trying cuy. There’s still plenty of time. Stay tuned for updates as I feel I will explore more amazing tastes before I finally get to try my first cuy.