Last spring break, I spent a week in Lima, Peru. I was mainly there to work with MEDLIFE, an organization that brings healthcare to poor villages, but let’s be real, here at Spoon we’ll go anywhere for the new food opportunities.
I didn’t really know much about Peruvian culture before going, so honestly, I thought the food would be similar to Mexican food (aka I would be eating a lot of tacos). This was not the case, as Peruvian food is very much its own category. Here are the five most unique dishes I tried:
5. Chinese Food
You might be asking, why travel all the way to South America just to eat Chinese food? It might seem weird, but Peruvians actually LOVE Chinese food. There are Chinese restaurants, which they call “chifa,” on every corner.
In my opinion, there really wasn’t anything special about it because it tasted exactly like the Chinese food here. I’m not complaining though, because who doesn’t love a giant plate of orange chicken and fried rice?
4. Asparagus Ceviche
Ceviche is probably the most well-known Peruvian dish. It’s traditionally made with raw seafood, which they “cook” by soaking it in huge amounts of lemon or lime juice. For this particular dish, asparagus and other vegetables were used in place of seafood. The citrus juice made the vegetables soft and tender. Plus, it was super healthy because all of the nutrients were retained since it wasn’t5 Things I Ate in Peru That Should Be Featured on Bizarre Foods actually cooked.
3. Cow Heart (Anticucho)
I’m generally not into consuming animal organs, but cow heart is another Peruvian specialty, so I felt like I needed to try it. Most of the time it’s served grilled in large pieces on a skewer. It looks just like normal beef, so it’s easy to ignore the fact that it’s an actual heart. The taste actually reminded me of beef tenderloin, but since the heart is all muscle, the meat was pretty tough. I think I’ll stick to regular beef.
This strange looking fruit called a grenadilla, is very popular in Peru. I would describe it as a cross between an orange and a pomegranate; it looks like a normal orange from the outside, but it has a tough outer shell and edible seeds on the inside like a pomegranate.
The seeds were slimy and squishy, but once I got past the weird texture it was actually pretty refreshing and flavorful. At first, the seeds taste sweet, but as you chew them they turn sour. Overall I liked the grenadilla, but it’s not a fruit I would want to eat every day.
1. Guinea Pig
This was some crazy s**t. I admit, I was a little apprehensive and didn’t personally order guinea pig, but I did try a bite of it. It was slightly alarming to see an entire cooked rodent stretched out on the plate, fur and all.
As you can imagine, a guinea pig is not the meatiest of animals, so it was quite a process just to find an edible part.The meat kind of reminded me of the flavor of duck; it was a bit fatty and greasy. After trying it, I would say eating guinea pig is something you do for the story (and the Instagram) rather than the taste.
The best part of going to foreign places is experiencing the differences in culture, including the food. Although a country’s food may seem really strange and even disgusting at times, I encourage you to be adventurous and try at least a bite of everything. Who knows, maybe guinea pig will become your new go-to weeknight meal (I hope not).