Peruvian food has a reputation as being probably the most delicious in the world. Known by chefs and tourists as a national treasure, there’s something magical about the combination of flavours that you can’t die without trying at least once.
But if you’re new to Peruvian cuisine and you feel like there’s thousands of different dishes to try, it might be a little overwhelming to get to know these meals. So keep reading to find out the 10 ingredients in Peruvian food you absolutely must try so you can get to know this culture a little better!
A very rare type of meat for people who don’t live in this country, alpaca meat is actually a delicacy and one of the most consumed types of meat. Just like beef, there are different parts of the alpaca that vary in tenderness and flavor. Sure, you probably won’t find alpaca meat outside of Perú, but if you really want to give this meat a try make sure to order a grilled steak when you visit this country.
Ají de Gallina
Aji de gallina is one of the most popular dishes when it comes to Peruvian food, and what we really want you to try here is the aji sauce. The particular taste obtained from this sauce comes from the mix of yellow peppers, walnuts, turmeric, garlic and several other exotic spices that end up tasting like heaven. The best thing about this sauce is that, even though it’s prepared quite heavily, the flavor is very mild and it’s not as spicy as you might think.
Another peculiar type of meat that Peruvians simply love is cuy. This animal is more commonly known as guinea pig, although they’re actually small rodents like hamsters. (but they’re clean and completely safe to eat!) This meat is tender and it has been cooked for centuries in Peru because of its nutritional value and how easy it is to breed them compared to beef or chicken. When you get a bite of cuy meat, you’ll get a lean and salty flavor and texture, very similar to that of pork meat.
This is one ingredient we strongly recommend for people who enjoy spicy food and extreme culinary experiences! Rocoto can be made into sauce, but it’s also commonly prepared as a dish called Rocoto relleno, which roughly translates to“stuffed pepper”. This chili pepper is 10 times spicier than jalapeños, so it’s definitely not an option for those who can’t handle the heat. You can also get your hands on some tasty rocoto paste and use it to create thick or thin sauces and add a spice to your meals.
You thought there was only one way to eat alpaca meat? You were wrong! Peruvian food has a way to prepare one ingredient in very different ways, all with the best flavour you could imagine. Charqui are thin strips of dried alpaca meat, and they resemble beef jerky when you buy them. Charqui is probably the best, and healthiest, snack because it’s filled with the nutrients of alpaca meat and the taste is salty and a bit crunchy.
Leche de Tigre
Yes, this is technically a dish more than just an ingredient, but it comes from another full meal and the taste is so great we had to recommend it. Leche de Tigre means“Tiger’s milk” and it’s made from fish stock (leftover from the famous Peruvian ceviche), tons of lemon juice, salt and pepper. There’s nothing more refreshing than taking a shot of Leche de Tigre on a hot summer day. Some people believe this drink can give you a boost of energy and others even say it’s an aphrodisiac, what we can’t deny is it’s amazing flavour.
Drinks are also very important when it comes to Peruvian food! Chicha morada is almost like a national emblem because everyone enjoys it so much. This fresh non-alcoholic drink is made from Peruvian purple corn grown in the Andes. The taste is mildly sweet and it kind of resembles a softer grape juice with atangy note. Chicha morada can actually be found in many countries now, so you can easily enjoy it with your meals and get addicted to it.
As you can see, Peruvians love their sauces and they make them a very important ingredient in their meals. In this case, huancaína sauce is a delicacy made with spicy yellow peppers and it has a light creamy texture. Huancaína is most commonly used in Papas a la huancaína as a popular entry, but you can pour this sauce on other vegetables or even meat like chicken or beef, basically anywhere you like, because it tastes amazing.
Right after chicha morada there’s another amazing non-alcoholic drink that you can enjoy any time of the day. This beverage is a soda with a bright yellow look and a very bubbly appearance. When you take a first sip of this drink you get a strong bubblegum flavor, but it goes away and you’re left with a fresh and sweet sensation in your mouth. Luckily, Inca Kola is now available almost anywhere, so it won’t be hard for you to get a sparkling bottle of this drink for your next meal.
Peruvian food is not all about salty and spicy flavours, they also know their way around a dessert table! Lucuma is an exotic fruit grown in the regions of Ecuador and Peru, and it has a dry and not-so-enjoyable taste. However, when you use this fruit as an ingredient to create a milkshake or an ice cream, it takes on a deliciously fresh and sweet taste that will make you addicted.
If you’re dipping your toes in the waters of Peruvian food, there’s no way you can miss these ingredients. It doesn’t matter if you want to try them along with a traditional Peruvian dish or you want to give them your own personal spin and use them to cook something else, these ingredients will be a part of your kitchen from now on, we guarantee!