Latin America: A Journey Through Food (Video)

10 months + 12 countries= 861 meals.

From llama to cow intestines to ceviche to guinea pig to a LOT of rice and boiled potatoes, Latin America introduced me to a lot of new gastronomical challenges.  Some were successes (I love alpaca!), while some left me feeling queasy (spit-roasted guinea pig is not a delicacy for me), but all reminded me that the secret to understanding a culture is through their food.  Here is just a taste of what South American cuisine is all about.

Also, for a more detailed look at Peruvian cuisine, don’t forget to check out my post on the most typical Peruvian dishes.

Heading to Peru Soon?  Don’t Forget to Try These Typical Peruvian Foods

Heading to Peru Soon? Don’t Forget to Try These Typical Peruvian Foods

Peru Independence Day was July 28.  To celebrate, a friend and I went out to a food fair in Lima, which is reputedly the gastronomical capital of South America.  After a night spent stuffing ourselves with traditional Peruvian food and drink, we decided that this is a reputation well-deserved.

If you’re heading to Peru any time in the future, or just looking for some new food to sample, here are some of my top picks:


Peruvian Food
Clockwise, starting top left: Aji de gallina, Chicharrones, tamales, soltero de queso. Centre image: Anticuchos
  • Ají de Gallina: Chicken and rice in a creamy, aji (hot pepper) sauce.  Supposedly it also has peanuts, although I didn’t see any in mine.  I found this dish rather mild, so maybe mine didn’t have enough aji.
  • Anticuchos:  This was the toughest one for me to stomach, but one of my favourites.  Grilled beef hearts!  So delicious and tender!
  • Arroz con Leche: A sticky and sweet rice pudding.  Best served with liquid gelatin topping.  Can be served warm or cold.
  • Carapulcra con Yuca:  I only tried a bit of this one, and it wasn’t a huge standout.  Boiled potato stew with hot peppers, rice, chicken/pork and garlic.  Served with yuca — cassava.
  • Ceviche: Easily the most famous Peruvian dish.  Considering I really dislike fish, I am so proud of myself for having eaten this twice in one week.  I actually love it!  Raw fish marinated in lime, and served with lots of red onion, dried corn, and sweet potatoes.
  • Chicha Morada:  The juice version of chicha.  Non-alcoholic, this juice is made from purple corn and is mixed with pineapple juice and cinnamon.
  • Chicha: A very traditional Andean drink from the Inca Empire.  Fermented purple corn drink, slightly alcoholic.  It used to be used in many Inca ceremonies.
  • Chicharrones:  The idea of pork rinds fried in fat is less-than-appetizing, but these are a crunchy, tasty snack!
  • Lomo Saltado (con Arroz Chaufa):  Chinese cuisine meets Peruvian in this dish, a stir-fry with sirloin, onions, parsley, tomatoes, and home-cut french fries in a spiced soy sauce.  Normally it is served with white rice, but you can also get it with Arroz Chaufa, rice fried with vegetables, meat, and eggs.  These two dishes are a typical example of Chifa — Chinese food modified to include typical Peruvian ingredients, a result of Chinese immigration to Peru in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

    Lomo Saltado
  • Pastel de Papas:  A sort of potato pie, which involved a lot of cheese.  Also part of my cooking class.
  • Pollo Broaster: Both Peru and Bolivia are filled with Pollo Broaster restaurants.  All feature rotisserie chickens in grease-covered window displays and have severly-questionable hygiene standards.  The chicken is overly salty and nothing exceptional, but you are guaranteed to have a true, Peruvian fast-food dinner experience.
  • Rocoto Relleno:  Typical food from Arequipa.  Rocoto hot peppers stuffed with a mixture of beef, raisins, eggs, cheese, peas, carrots, milk, and potatoes.  These have a real kick to them, but are probably my favourite Peruvian dish!  I learnt to cook them in a cooking class in Arequipa!
  • Salchipapas:  A popular Peruvian fast food snack.  French fries piles high with cut-up hot dog wieners, mayo, ketchup and/or mustard.  Peruvian version of poutine?
  • Soltero de Queso: A tasty, brightly-coloured salad.  Lots of cheese, corn, lima beans, onions, tomatoes, carrots, all tossed with a lime dressing.
  • Tamales: Beef or vegetables in a layer of mashed corn, all wrapped up in a steamed banana leaf.


Clockwise from top left: Ceviche, arroz con leche, rocotos rellenos/pastel de papas, chicken and rice, salchipapas