After a year in Bolivia, where we regarded most seafood with suspicion, we were overjoyed to be travelling near the coast again to be able to take advantage of fresh fish. Of course, ceviche is the most famous Peruvian seafood dish, but I also loved sudado. It’s translated as fish stew, but seems to me more delicate than the word ‘stew’ can convey. More of a steamed fish with lots of tasty juices made with onion, tomato, chile and a dash of lime.
Served with sweet potato and rice, I ate this sudado in Huanchaco, at a tiny restaurant run by an old couple and open only at the weekend. Without a doubt it was the yummiest I had, and their pescado frito (fried fish) and fresh chicha was pretty good too. They claimed it was because the fish was super fresh and had just been caught, but it must also have been their special recipe.
The restaurant is in a single storey building, with a terrace under a palm roof out front, on Av. la RIvera near the corner of Los Pinos. Lunch for two was 20 soles.
Yep, we ate that.
It’s one of those things that tourists do in South America. Local people also eat cuy – otherwise known as guinea pig – and have done for centuries in the Andean regions. We’ll try pretty much anything, and since there was an Andean food fair in Huaraz, we thought what better time to eat cuy?
First mistake: wanting the novelty of eating something with recognizable head and feet, we ordered the big portion, which set us back 20 soles. That’s quite expensive. Second mistake: this was the last one on the barbecue and consequently was over-cooked as it had been sitting there a long time. Third mistake: getting it as a take-away meant we had to eat it on a park bench with a plastic fork. This was not easy because of the aforementioned over-cooking.
It was tough. Incredibly tough. Impossible, in fact, to break through the leathery skin which was about a centimeter thick (why such a small animal has such thick skin I’ll never understand). Impossible also to rip the skin off the body to reveal the flesh beneath. This meant we had to turn the thing over – it was basically half a carcass which had been splayed out and cooked – to try to get at the meat underneath. Instead, this just exposed some charred innards, little rodent teeth and tiny ribs which seemed to have no meat on them. We managed to pick at the back leg and get some strands of flesh but it wasn’t much more than a mouthful. I’d like to compare it to rabbit, except I couldn’t really tell much about the taste or texture from this measly meal.
If we’d been inclined to attack it with our teeth and nails, we could have dismembered it a bit more and perhaps liberated more flesh. But honestly, it didn’t seem worth it. Instead, we ate the boiled potatoes and spicy sauce that came with it (really delicious sauce, I’ll add) and wished we’d ordered the soup instead.
If you’d like to know more about cuy cuisine, check out Infused Exposures, a travel food blog of South America.
So yeah, everyone talks about Peruvian food. We ate some good stuff there (we also ate stuff that was just like Bolivian food too). But three meals easily stand out as the best.
Ceviche in Huacachina
This is the best ceviche ever. It was super fresh and tender, perfectly marinated and a good-sized portion. We also ordered fried squid which came with yucca and salad. Also out-of-this-world delicious. It was so good that we went back the next day and ordered it all again.
[I have to apologize for this picture. I assumed we’d be eating ceviche like this all over Peru, so I only took pictures with my iPod. It wasn’t true. No where came even close to this meal.]
Tamarind pork in Lima’s Chinatown
Peruvians are quite proud of their chifas. Certainly they have the best in South America, although the food is very Westernised (and bizarrely some Chinese restaurants only serve fried chicken). But at a random restaurant in Lima’s Chinatown we ate an almuerzo that included wonton soup and main dish for 8 soles. The pork was lovely and barbecued, with lotus and radish in a thick, sour-sweet tamarind sauce. Heaven in my mouth.
[Are you noticing a theme with these pictures? Also shown here is a chicken and vegetable dish with -gasp! – bean sprouts and bak choi. Virtually non-existent in South America.]
The old standby of Lomo Saltado
Chopped up steak, onions, tomato and chips, all fried up together and served over rice. This particular one was served at a roadside restaurant on a tour we took in Huaraz. I don’t even really like steak very much. Or onions. But these ingredients were fresh and perfectly cooked. I couldn’t get enough.
[Look at all those vegetables. It’s got to be healthy, right?]
What’s your favourite Peruvian food?