The taste of Peru

From ceviche to guinea pigs to river snails Peru's passion for local cuisine is cementing the South American nation's standing as a culinary epicentre.

One of the wonderfully unexpected things to enjoy in Peru is the food. The country has seen somewhat of a gastronomic explosion over the past few years – largely thanks to trendy chefs like Gaston Acurio, his wife Astrid Gutsche and their trendy contemporaries leading the charge in the tiny South American nation’s culinary overhaul.
For Peru the past few decades has cemented cooking as a chic pastime and now the country boasts two of the best restaurants in the world, chef Mitsuharu Tsumura’s Japanese infused Maido, and Virgilio Martinez’s altitude inspired Central – which both made the cut in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 list, nabbing spots 44 and 4 respectively.
Gifted with a spectacularly abundant ecosystem—3000+ varieties of potatoes is mind-blowing, right? —Lima is emerging as a new global gastronomic epicentre.
Every region of Peru has their own take on ceviche. In Lima and on the coast for example the seafood dish is made from fresh saltwater fish and shrimp while in the Andean mountains and the amazon the locals harness a combination of river fish and regional produce like trout and corn husks.
Guinea Pig
Introducing the tastiest pet of them all; the guinea pig.
In Peru guinea pig, or Cuy as it is known, is one of the nation’s most savoured delicacies and while chowing down on the flesh of the once cuddly creature isn’t for the faint-hearted those who dare to try it will discover it is surprisingly succulent and enjoyable.
River snails
Ordinarily the sight of a mollusc appearing on your plate would be cause for summoning the food inspector but in Peru river snails are a traditional part of the country’s haute cuisine.
If a giant coiled shell does find its way into your buffet, give it a go, the slippery foamy suckers aren’t to everyone’s taste but at least you can say you tried it.
The call it the superfood of the Gods and once you taste how well chef Mitsuharu Tsumura and his team at Maido prepare their cacao dish you can’t imagine them eating anything else.
Just like wine, various regions of Peru grow different cacao pods and the ecotypes produce very distinct flavours that are identifiable to a particular area – which is enough excuse to try and taste them all.
Seeing Alpaca on the menu isn’t too out of the ordinary in South America.
Often you will find the tender, lean, red meat sitting on a platter surrounded by a garland of local produce.
From the upper reaches of the Andes to the low lying altitudes of the Amazon Peru’s favourable agricultural climate and soil has given way to more than 3000 types of potato. Thousands of varieties means thousands of ways to cook them and the Peruvians have managed to advance the humble potato from a side dish to a delicious main event in Causa - a layered potato cake recipe that is popular because it is both economic and easy to prepare.

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