Peru has experienced a gastronomical renaissance of sorts in the past decade, as the world has finally taken notice of the delicious creations emerging from tiny kitchens around the country. Arguably South America’s top spot for dining, travellers can expect top notch offerings for much less than they’d pay for similar-quality dishes in North America and Europe. If you find yourself in Peru, be sure to try the following three things the country is famous for:
Peru’s national dish, ceviche (or ‘cebiche’) consists of raw, fresh fish drenched in lemon or lime juice, garnished with onions and seasoned with spices like chili peppers. It comes with a side of bright orange sweet potatoes (delish) and fat kernels of corn. Ceviche is commonly made with trout, but some restaurants will also include everything from shrimp to octopus to calamari. If you plan on ordering some, I have two suggestions. First, order from a reputable place, as a bad batch of seafood never does a traveller any favours. Second, request the kitchen spice it mildly if you don’t like your tongue to light on fire–those chilis can pack a punch!
Leche de Tigre
Once you’ve polished off your ceviche, get set for round two: tiger’s milk! It’s basically the same as ceviche, minus the fish. Leche de tigre is usually served in a small glass, and is made up of the same juices you’ll find in the main dish–aka it’s very tart. Peruvians like the course, as it’s believed to be both a hangover cure and aphrodisiac.
OK, so you can’t technically eat this one, but a Pisco Sour is THE drink in Peru, and a delightful one at that! The cocktail is made from pisco liquor (popular in Peru), lemon juice, simple syrup and egg whites, which make a fluffy layer of white foam on the top. A pisco sour is similar in taste to a lime margarita, and is best enjoyed on a sunny patio. As an added bonus, you can usually find them on special during happy hour. But a warning if you can’t handle your booze: stop after a couple, as pisco sours pack a punch!
OK I lied, there are four things you should try in Peru. The final one is coca tea, which is commonly found in hotels, hostels and restaurants around the entire country. The tea helps ward off altitude sickness, so it’s a must if you plan on travelling to Cusco or Machu Picchu. You can get it in tea bag form, or as loose leaves that you just throw straight into your mug and pour hot water over. It’s fantastic with a bit of sugar mixed in.
Budget tip: To save money, skip the regular menu and order from the set menu offered at many restaurants, especially around lunch time. For about S/.20 or less (about $8) you can get an appetizer, main course and dessert or drink. To give you an example, one pizza place I went to charged about S/.20 for just pizza, but offered garlic bread, pizza and a small glass of wine for S/.18 on the set menu. Also, keep an eye out for service charges. Some don’t even advertise it, and will ding you an extra 6-12 soles when they present the bill!
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