Hello everyone! It’s Friday the 13th. As a saying I like goes: “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows.” To have a little fun with the date, we came up with 13 ways to eat like a Peruvian. If you’re Peruvian, you’ll nod as you scroll down the list and know exactly what we’re talking about. For everyone else, this will give you a clearer view (hopefully) of our food-obsessed culture.
Here’s the list:
1. Eat late. Lunch at 11am? Dinner at 6pm? Are these gringos crazy? This is what we usually think when we come in contact with the foreign custom of eating early. Our lunches (even business ones) start at least at 2pm, and dinner is around 8, 9, or 10pm. Restaurants don’t even open much earlier than that!
2. Have piqueos (hors d’oeuvres) at the start of a meal. Whether it’s just canchita (dried and toasted Andean corn), tequeños, yuquitas (fried yuca) with Huancaina sauce, conchitas a la parmesana, or a combination of dishes shared by everyone in the table , if you eat out in Peru you better be hungry, because 3 courses are not enough for us.
4. Drink chicha morada or Inca Kola with your meals. Chicha morada is a drink made of purple corn,fruits and spices. There’s almost no home, restaurant, or celebration where it’s not prepared. The taste is very particular, and Peruvians love it so much that they take commercial, ready-made versions in their bags when they move abroad. Inca Kola, on the other hand, is our national fizzy drink. Foreigners tend to agree that it tastes like chewing gum, but we’re so used to the flavor that we can’t feel it. Believe it or not, the actual ingredient behind it is lemongrass!!!
5. Combine several dishes together. There is even a special name for this: combinado. Arroz con pollo with Huancaina sauce. Cebiche with tallarines rojos (spaghetti with tomato and carrot sauce). You can find people eating combinados in most Peruvian markets. The flavors sinergize and create a new dish altogether, with, we must admit, amazing results sometimes.
6. Somehow, someway, get palta (avocado) into your meals. Avocados with bread, as part of salads, with rice, stuffed with chicken, tuna, shrimps, cebiche, or vegetables… Avocado with mayonnaise as a dip for tequeños… What would we do without our beloved (and may I say, delicious) paltas?
7. Spice it up. Bland food should vanish from the face of the earth… at least from a Peruvian‘s point of view. The intense love for ají –chili pepper– is in our blood, and we add it to soups, mayonnaise, rice, bread, stews, chicken, fish, etc. We cook with many different types of chili peppers, each one having a unique flavor and aroma, and I think that you need to be Peruvian to know them all the way we do. Beware newcomers! I’ve seen people turn red, sweat, and even cry by eating Peruvian chilis with over-confidence.
8. Start with aderezo. The preparation of virtually every dish in Peru starts with what we call “aderezo” or “ahogado“. This savory mixture of red onion, garlic and chili pepper really is the basis of all our food. And when I say onions and garlic, it means heavy on the onions and heavy on the garlic. Maybe this is what makes all our dishes burst in flavor.
9. Eat everything that moves. Ever thought of eating a guinea pig, alpaca, iguana, cat, or snail? Peruvians have! And not only have they learned to eat every unfortunate animal that happens to cross their eyesight, they also eat every part of it. Head, tongue, intestines, feet, tail, testicles…whatever it is, if you give it to a Peruvian, he/she will find a tasty way to cook it, feed it to all his/her family , and turn it into a popular tradition.
10. Big portions. Being pretty health conscious girls, we’re always amazed by how much Peruvians eat. Yes, we can eat a lot too, because the food is just too tempting to stop. But we are very low on the bar of food portions compared to the average Peruvian. The dishes you get served at home and restaurants sometimes look like they’re for 4 people instead of one, and we’re not exaggerating.
Which brings us to the next 2 points…
11. Put salsa criolla and a fried egg on top of everything. This is an easy way to make the dish more varied in taste, and especially to make it more filling, And, as we have seen in the previous point, when it comes to eating, more is always better for Peruvians.
12. Eat real food for breakfast, especially on weekends. And by real food we don’t mean oats, omelettes or fruit salad. We mean tamales, pan con chicharrón, aguadito de pollo, and whatever you made for lunch or dinner the previous night. Yup. Peruvians can’t get enough of their food. Why waste any opportunity to eat it?
13. Don’t pass on dessert. You ALWAYS have to make room for dessert. We usually say there’s a different compartment in the stomach for dessert. It doesn’t matter how full we are, there is always a space especially reserved for it. It´s amazing, even beauty queens, so aware of their bodies and their diets, always order dessert. Cakes, merengados, bavarois, alfajores, soufflés, turrones, ice cream… the list is endless, and our love for them, too.
Oh, we couldn’t help it. We had to give you an extra one!
14. Praise the food. It’s no coincidence that Gastón Acurio, our celebrity chef, has a TV show where he goes around Peru trying new dishes and being extremely generous with the “mmmmmms!”, “aaaaaaaaahs!”, and “ooooooohs!” In Peru, this is what we do. And we also love to verbalize our love for food a bit more eloquently than that. “There’s nothing like Peruvian food“, “When I’m abroad, the thing I miss the most is the food“, and “Our food is by far the best and most varied in the world”, are just a few typical phrases that come out of Peruvian mouths on a regular basis.