How to eat and survive in Peru

Option number one:

Be excruciatingly boring and stick to certain double arc fast food chains and other American-style eateries you may be able to find where you are. That basically includes Lima and Cuzco and offers no real guarantees. Besides lame food, that is.

Option number two:

Check yourself into a luxury western chain hotel and never go anywhere but the hotel restaurant. Same principles as above apply. Yaaaaaaawn.

Option number three:

Be adventurous and go where your gut takes you, literally. If this option appeals, keep on reading for some more tips below.

For the Drinker

I’m starting with the goodies, so as to account for (statistically measured) short attention spans of blog-readers. Pisco Sour, the traditional national Peruvian cocktail, is made with the local Pisco brandy, lime juice, Angostura bitters and raw egg white – hence the lovely white foam on top. How it is served varies from place to place; the one I had was surprisingly delicious and refreshing, and miraculously did not taste much of egg at all. Tip number one: it is rumoured & has been rigorously tested – with encouraging results – that consuming a good dose of alcohol with your meal kills some of the nasties (please do not quote this post to your GP, it’s copyrighted). So grab your cheap flights to Peru and try this for yourself.

For the Foodie

The national dish to try, if you are into fish, is of course ceviche, or as I like to call it, raw fish salad. What can I say, apparently the Peruvians are the world’s original raw foodists. The trick is to squeeze the lime onto the fish and let the natural enzymes cook it on the spot. Sushi lovers & fanatical dieters will revel in this one!

If you are in Peru in June, especially in the Amazon region, you may be lucky enough to find another local delicacy made to celebrate the San Juan Festival, and also called juan: kind of like jambalaya, but rolled into a leaf-covered ball. There, I probably said it first. It’s quite an adventure on your palate, spicy but not necessarily too hot.

Also, prepare yourself in advance: this is a country where guinea pigs or cuy are not kept as pets at restaurants. They’re there, running around their sand castle, so you can choose an appetising looking one for lunch…I cannot recommend this one though, as I did not wanna go there. R.I.P. Cutie.

For the Sweet Tooth Indulger

Now we are getting to my perennial favourite bit, the dessert, totally and happily rodent-free. Try lucuma flavoured ice-cream – it’s custard-appleish and lovely. You’re likely to also fall in love with picarones (and Peruvian baked goods in general) – the local doughnut variety, made with pumpkin and sweet potato and served dripping with sweet spiced syrup…

Lastly, do yourself a favour, and stay away from Inca Cola – it’s sickeningly sweet and artificial-tasting, although locals patriotically swear by it.

About the author: Patricia Bieszk is a freelance writer, a tireless globetrotter and willing to try almost any dessert on the planet (with the chocolate ones being especially favoured).

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