Now, to start off, most of these dishes can be found throughout the country. We tried many of them in the south, but that’s because we arrived there first. That said, many towns and cities have their specialty – when we asked our Peruvian grocers in Buenos Aires what we should try and where, they simply told us to ask in every town what the special dish was and order it. Fair enough. And so, without further ado, dishes that are centered around meat.
I ordered cau cau once and found out it’s roughly equivalent to mondongo in Argentina – stomach meat. Rubbery, spongy, and chewy. I think this upset my stomach later in the day. Apparently Peru was rather rough on my tummy. It wasn’t bad, but I don’t think I’ll order it again. What we do for research…
Chicharrón means deep-fried meat. Usually, chicharrones are made from pork, but I also saw them made with fish and beef. No chicken, to my memory. They weren’t the healthiest thing to order, nor the most complex, but I liked them. People sometimes ate them for breakfast – I did once. In this picture, they’re served with qapchi, a cream sauce made with huacatay (a green-tasting herb from Peru), cheese, milk, crackers, and spices.
Puca picante was supposed to be the specialty of Ayacucho, the medium-sized town we spent a day in between Cuzco and the north, but I have to say it was a little bland and disappointing. It looks great with all that redness, but nothing comes of it. Picante usually means not, but in Peru I believe it also means cooked in a thick sauce or something like that.
Rocoto relleno, or stuffed pepper, while being a vegetable, is completely stuffed with meat, so I’m putting it in here. The slightly spicy local ají amarillos (yellow peppers – not capsicums, these are a Peruvian item) are de-seeded and stuffed with a mixture of ground beef, egg, onions, garlic, raisins, carrots, peas, potatoes, and sometimes other items as well. They are then blanched a few times to soften their texture and their spice, then baked with a bit of cheese or soufflé on top. Two can be an entire meal. (The peppers are in the back – in the front are two kinds of cooked & friend potatoes. Two kinds of potatoes at lunch! I love Peru!)
Ají de gallina has long been a favourite of ours ever since we discovered it at our favourite Peruvian restaurant in Buenos Aires. Literally coming out to something like ‘sauce of hen’, it’s pulled chicken in a delicious sauce of milk, crackers, cheese, and hot peppers. I’m including a recipe below that Christine got from her host family in Cuzco. It’s one of our favourite dishes and surprisingly simple.
Seco de cordero follows closely on the heels of ají de gallina as a favourite. Stewed goat is probably the best translation. Usually done in a beer sauce, this dish can be heavenly when done right; that is, when a good sauce is made and the goat stewed until it’s almost falling off the bone. I had a very simple, very delectable version of this at Pachapapa in Cuzco – possibly the best I’ve ever had, actually. Goes to show you don’t need to have a lot to make a dish fantastic. That said, it’s often served with beans, rice, and an onion salad, as shown here, which I don’t mind one bit.
My last Peruvian dinner was a simple fish in sauce, but it reflected so much of what I love about the food here. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be tasty – a good sauce, a side of rice and beans, a too-small glass of chicha morada. So yay Peru! It’s no wonder Peruvian is starting to be seen as the new hot cuisine.
Part A: 2 somewhat spicy yellow peppers, medium size
5-6 cloves garlic
1 tbsp cumin
dash of water
1 onion, thinly sliced
Part B: soda crackers (1 package)
1/2 c peanuts
1/2 wheel cheese (8″ across) – we used 200 g of cheese and it seemed good.
1 can milk (1.5 c while blending, add more as needed to keep it liquidy)
Part C: 2 entire chicken breasts
1 c peas
Part D: boiled eggs
1. Blend part A together, then cook mix together with onions for about 15 minutes.
2. Blend B well (while A is cooking), keeping it to a medium thickness. Add to A, cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Boil the chicken separately until cooked.
3. Take mix off of heat. Pull chicken into tiny strips, add chicken and peas to mix.
4. Garnish with D over boiled potatoes.