¿Ñew to Perú? Aspiring to dive right into the local offerings of neon sodas and alliterative grains? I’d like to introduce to readers a sampling of what’s available in Peru, not limited to but chiefly in the cities of Lima and Cuzco, where you will encounter the locals, Limeños and Cuzqueños, respectively. Also, in Peruvian Spanish, jamear signifies “to eat” and vacilar “to have fun.” Bonus word: zambullir, it means to plunge (or dive). It’s not only Peruvian, but it might be one of my favorite Spanish words. Say it a few octaves lower, you might like it too.
I really don’t want to remember the moment this photo was taken. Even worse, it is sold in the NYC-area, so I might as well have taken this in Paterson, NJ by the Peruvian Consulate. But, los peruanos must have acquired the taste for it over time, so much so that when Coca-Cola came to Peru, even they had to kow-tow to the urological legerdemain of Inca Kola. (Link thanks to ie.edu in Madrid) To me, it tasted like sugar-flavored bubble gum, with extra sugar to seal in the fun. Why not get a stick of the sweetest gum you can think of (for those in the US, BubbleYum? Bubblicious? or for Singaporeans, take a day trip to Malaysia) and while chewing, gulp a club soda. (Link thanks to Business Insider) Is it the same thing? No. But it’s something to do, even on a rainy day. Or before a flight to Singapore.
I read about adding cuy, or guinea pig, to my “consumed organisms” spreadsheet (which exists only in premeditated memory) before going to Peru. It wasn’t exactly on every menu in Cuzco, but at least a few of the gyp-the-tourist restaurants in the Plaza de Armas (main square) did. I wasn’t peckish enough to get the full order, but an affable con artist (is that an oxymoron?) presented the above option as an…option. The taste wasn’t memorable, moreover everything else on the plate was much more flavorful. I think cuy is typically prepared grilled, fried or baked, but don’t ever, ever broast it. Nah, I just wanted to add the word broast to my blog.
Camote is another word for sweet potato, and naturalmente deliciosos signifies naturally delicious. If only that was the case- a crop of sweet potato chips/crisps naturally grown. The word “natural” is used so confusingly in advertising. Anyway, if you thought of Idaho and Ireland when someone mentioned the word potato, you’d probably…be from the US. The homeland of the tuber is the Andes region, mainly from Peru south to Chile. Sweet potato (chips), at least in the Western Hemisphere, aren’t that uncommon. I just wanted to pay my respects to eating them in their homeland. This sounds a bit creepy and ironic, so I’ll hold off on mentioning potatoes for a few posts.
It looks like a dish to feed birds to get them to never come back, red onions (a potato; whoops, broke the rule already) and some type of lightly salted birdfeed. Oh no, that’s called cancha– kernels from maíz chulpe, chulpe corn, that don’t pop as other kernels might form popcorn. They instead swell into veritable corn nuts, and the reason they are next to onions is because I kept eating them. In addition to red onions. I “created” this snack plate from a vendor by the Chinatown in Lima. If you are in the US and keen on trying them, either visit a zoo (could be?) or try Mesa Mexican food’s website.
Ceviche, the one meal I knew to look forward to in Peru, came through. The crux of ceviche is to have fresh fish/seafood “cooked” by citrus fruits, lemon and lime; since it is not literally cooked, there is a higher risk of parasites, so it must be prepared fresh. I found the one above at a nondescript restaurant in a mostly rundown part of Lima, the kind of place I’ve had the most luck savoring local flavors (both the salubrious and insalubrious). I had no idea usual sidebars were potato (how many strikes is that?) and corn, which were good mellowing agents (your task: define “mellowing agent”) joined the party, but the slightly spicy and required citrus flavors present in the yellowtail, octopus and calamari were undoubtedly one of the better seafood meals I’ve eaten. (Who’s the wise guy who added lettuce to decorate it? Where are we, a TGI Friday’s?)
A turrón is nougat, comprising honey, egg whites, palm sugar, and sometimes almonds/peanuts, and is often eaten at Christmas time. Would you believe there was nougat in the picture? I feel like it is a visual of some hard-to-find organic cereal done three ways, and best enjoyed none of those ways. And I confess, I tried the turrón crocante, the crispy specimen that looks like an invasive species of spaghetti. It was bland, its demeanor akin to a marshmallow square or a Kellogg’s® Rice Krispies® Treat™, without the pomp or circumstance to back it up. Want to try it at home? I’d suggest using sandpaper to whittle down some peanuts, add in a fist-full of sugar (but make sure there’s a slight breeze to make most of it blow away) and then put both of those ingredients on cardboard. Then, throw it all away. To me, it wasn’t worth the chewing or getting the caramelesque substance stuck in my teeth. Besides, Peru has too many other delicacies to try out.
Coconut, I’d like to have another digestive compartment just for you and your unhealthy and languishing traits. Excluding the coconut water and its trendencies (it’s popular in parts of the US now), the meat and the milk would not compel you to wander for hours around a city with the sole purpose of eating, if not eating while extremely full. I’m getting tired just typing about coconuts now.
This vendor was also in Lima, and had two types of soused-up coconut. One, strands of coconut flesh (copra) were dried and sugared. The brownish example, I don’t know what was going on there (didn’t like it nearly as much as the other), but it tasted a bit salty, or as if they had been loitering in front of a beauty salon. If the guy had a straw and a machete, just lob the nape off of the fruit and I’m able to simultaneously be refreshed and continue strolling.
If you have eaten Peruvian food, or have been to Peru, which meals have been stand-outs to you? Is it a country on your culinary must-visit list if you haven’t yet been?