Peru: A Tapestry of Restaurant, Street and Market Food (plus a recipe for Quinoa Soup)

There’s a difference between vacationing and traveling. Traveling removes me from my comfort zone; vacationing amplifies my comfort. The past couple of weeks spent in this marvelous tapestry of a landscape called Peru would definitely qualify as Traveling.

IMG_2754Between navigating road blocks piled high with boulders, tree stumps, and old TV’s–then finding ourselves in the center of a demonstration against the government; between drinking tinctures to avoid altitude sickness while insuring said tincture is not of the stomach curdling, tap water vintage…bottom line, two rode hard ladies could use a beach in the Caribbean about now.

That’s not to say this wasn’t one of the best trips of my life. I love Peru. I love her food. I love her culture, her spirituality, her people. And I will write more about these travels when I have recovered from this country. In summery, Pachamama  gave this disconnected woman a wake-up slap on her creamy North American cheek.  (Food and culture are intrinsically linked. Here are some Peruvian people and their foods that we were delighted to meet.)

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Gaston Acurio is the Peruvian chef recognized for bringing the delectable cuisine of his country to the world. Today, Peruvian food is widely considered one of the great world cuisines.

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Ceviche (cebiche) is Peru's flagship dish of marinated seafood (trout pictured here) in chili peppers and limes usually served with sweet potatoes, onions and toasted corn.

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Shrimp, shellfish and trout were featured in this version of cebiche.

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There are thousands of varieties of potato with their own specific usages.

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Color-drenched sauces and condiments accompanied most every dish we sampled. Pictured here they are sold by the kilo at a local market.

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Papas Rellenas: Fried Mashed Potatoes filled with Beef served with Huancaina Sauce and Sarsa Criolla.

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Ubiquitous in Peruvian cuisine are mashed potatoes that are served compressed and chilled, filled with a variety of vegetables--perhaps fish--and served with a sauce of some sort.

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Another version, fashionably molded in a timbale.

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Negotiating a vegetarian meal could be a complex operation. Bits of meat seem to hide everywhere.

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Anticuchos are brochettes made from beef hearts marinated in a various Peruvian spices and grilled. They are sold by street vendors, but we enjoyed them (not skewered) alongside livers and gizzards at Panchita, a popular creole restaurant in the Miraflores section of Lima.

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We're all familiar with the plethora of health properties in quinoa, the ancient Inca grain. You'll find a wide variety of quinoa soups throughout Peru.

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Quinoa, quinoa! Cleverly planted in little cakes, and even based in ice cream.

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Another Peruvian favorite--guinea pig! Everyone has an opinion on this, errr, rodent and I found them delicious. With their tiny bones and rich flavor, they were reminiscent of game birds.

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Trout, in all of its many guises, is Andean cookings primary freshwater fish and you will see it on every menu in every restaurant in Peru. Perhaps I exaggerate, but as much as I love trout, I'm done with this fish for a while.

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Surprise! The main course is...trout!

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This tea (note the coca leaves) helped with the soaring altitudes. This was my recovery drink after "hiking"--more like staggering--around a 16,000 foot landscape.

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Ah...the coca leaf. This staple, though not delicious, has a plethora of medicinal properties. What we chewed (with quinoa ashes), ate in candy and drank in tea would land us a prison sentence in the USA.

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Ah yes. When in Peru, you'll likely dine on alpaca. Judging from the "chew", it was certainly free-range and grass fed . I ate alpaca a couple of times--each experience quite different. It is a lean, flavorful meat that I especially enjoyed braised.

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The beautiful black Inca corn (Kulli).

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Shary, my fearless food-loving travel companion, sipping Chicha Morada--the infamous Peruvian purple corn drink. South Americans have all sorts of variations of corn-based drinks, and this Peruvian specialty is made by boiling purple corn with pineapple rind, apple, cinnamon, cloves and water, then seasoning it with sugar and lime juice.

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Rumor has it there are as many festivals in Peru as there are species of potato (over 3,000 each year). The next few photos were snapped along a dirt road in a small village at one 3-day event. We had the opportunity to be a part of two festivals on our travels.

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Visiting the colorful "Al Marcado" market in Lima. I haven't a clue as to what species of fish this is. It looks like something--a Parrotfish?--found in Caribbean waters, but it is from Peru. The Amazon is home to some of the largest fresh water fish on Earth.

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We are deciding on lunch now; the charming proprietor is showing us the menu.

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We pointed to the fish behind the counter we wished to try and within minutes it was ready to eat. Pictured here--fried with seaweed.

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Another one of her market creations--Arroz Con Marischos--a fresh fish and rice dish seasoned with tomato, garlic, cumin peppers, turmeric, onions and paprika--typical ingredients enjoyed in traditional Peruvian recipes.

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Farm to Table; an Amazon woman brings fruit from her farm to the local Lima market.

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Luscious fruit from the Amazon jungle. Chirimoya --also known as Custard Apples-- are native to the Andean highlands of Peru. The inside is white, juicy and fleshy with a creamy custard like texture studded with seeds that look like beans. Chirimoya are sweet and taste like a combination of banana, pineapple, peach and strawberry.

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The pulp of the Granadilla is runny and sweet; the caviar of fruits with edible crunchy seeds.

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All of these Amazonian plant-based powders exhibit properties sure to cure what ails you.

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We were guided through this incredibly diverse market in Lima by "Lima Te Llena", a chef-run individualized market tour. I highly recommend this tour to food lovers who wish to dig deeper into the culture of authentic Peruvian food.

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We weren't the only ones feasting in Peru. Shary and I compare bites collected while hiking Machu Picchu.

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Here’s a recipe I just made for Chicken Quinoa Soup that is soothing the cold virus I contracted from the man who was sneezing and sniffling on my return home flight. I don’t care how silly I look; I am wearing a mask the next time I fly during flu season.

Peruvian Chicken & Quinoa Soup

Peruvian Chicken & Quinoa Soup

Recipe: Chicken-Quinoa Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 1 celery stick, sliced
  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa (white or black)
  • 1/2-1 small, hot red pepper, sliced, such as pasilla or chipotle* (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 peeled and 1/4-inch sliced yellow (Yukon Gold) potatoes (2 cups)
  • 1 sweet medium sized potato, peeled and 1/4 inch slice (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen, shelled fava, lima or edamame beans
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Stir in onion, carrots and celery and sauté three minutes or until just fragrant. Stir in chicken and sauté an additional 5 minutes or until the raw color has diminished. Stir in cumin, oregano and quinoa and cook an additional minute.
  3. Stir in hot pepper, if using, and garlic; add stock to pot and bring to a low boil. Add potatoes and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in beans and cook an additional 3-4 minutes. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Pass chopped cilantro and lime wedges, if using.

*Always wear plastic gloves when handling hot peppers.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 25 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 16 cups (Refrigerated, this soup keeps well for up to 3 days.)

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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More Recipes Filed Under "My Travels"

10 Responses to Peru: A Tapestry of Restaurant, Street and Market Food (plus a recipe for Quinoa Soup)

  1. Debbie says:

    So enjoyed reading this post and look forward to more travel stories!

  2. Debbie says:

    Dave says you are one adventurous woman!!!!

    • Peggy says:

      It takes a village. My travel buddy, Shary, had my back in times of need. And I can’t forget Pavel, our small group Peruvian guide who hailed from Cusco. As much as I enjoy wandering without a group, I’m thinking developing countries are best consumed with someone who knows the landscape.

  3. Michael whiting says:

    Hi Peggy, great photos and the food looks fantastic. Thanks for sharing. I love following your travels. Michael

    • Peggy says:

      Thank you, Michael! Plotting my next adventure is what keeps the home fires burning, but there’s something to be said about sitting still and appreciating the home fire. Peggy

  4. Bobby frank says:

    Peggy, when younger I explored many undeveloped (can’t really call them developing at that time) by myself, including solo trekking and hitchhiking, a GREAT way to truly explore a culture. Travelling is different than vacationing, but I do find I am doing a lot more vacationing than travelling as time goes on. Can’t convince the wife to hitchhike any more.

    • Peggy says:

      Hi Bobby! I hear ‘ya! Back in the day I took risks that I wouldn’t dream of taking today. I almost wrote that it was safer back then, until I remembered the Shining Path–the Maoist guerrilla terrorist group that decimated Peruvian populations back in the 80’s and early ’90’s. Needless to say, I felt very safe in Peru and understood why the people were protesting the privitization of Peruvian treasures, which should stay in the hands of the Peruvians. And I thought American politics were a circus! thanks for the comment! Peggy

  5. Lisa Redfern says:

    It looks like that was a memorable trip, Peggy.

    Bug bites and all. The food looks fantastic!

    After reading your recipe for the quinoa soup, I’ve realized that I’ve been in a quinoa rut….basically only thinking of it as a rice alternative.

    The spices, yams, chipolte and lime sound like a delectable combination. Good for a cold or just a chilly winter’s night. Do Peruvians eat tortillas with soup or some other type of bread?

    • Peggy says:

      It was, Lisa! This batch of soup was very helpful in getting over the cold I contracted. It makes a good sized pot, so leftovers are a bonus.

      Throughout my travels in Peru, I was never served tortillas with meals, only bread or fried plantains, for instance, to sop up juices (fried plantain excellent with ceviche). The bread was nothing remarkable, not much of a crust–at least the bread I ate–but it served its purpose of being a great mop for the amazing sauces. The potatoes, grains and rices were always served with the main course and they also did the trick.

      How are things out out west? Maybe they serve tortillas in your parts more than they do in Peru (-:

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