Peruvian food for dummies

Travel

Almost every time I speak to my Yiayia [Greek grandmother] on the phone, she asks about what we’re eating, and you can hear in her voice that she can’t imagine it would be any good. While no food in the world compares with hers, Peruvian food does come pretty close.

Peruvian food is pretty famous for being pretty much the best in South America. The number one chef in the world is Peruvian, so you kind of can’t argue, you just need to accept the [delicious] facts.

But we have met a lot of people who haven’t really worked out what it’s all about. And who can blame them when the translations Google churns out are so woefully inadequate.
So we wanted to help the world out. You know, at a humanitarian level, by offering some descriptions of the food we love that do slightly more to explain the dishes than Google does.

If you are also traveling in Peru and have a Greek grandmother, send her this post to ease her anxiety. If you’re a non-Greek who doesn’t live for food, try some of these dishes and find your purpose, even if that means you have to fly to Lima. If you’re Peruvian, send us all the dishes we’ve missed, we’re not wizards and couldn’t list of all of them. Vegetarians and vegans, well, you should probably stop reading here.


An important note: Peruvian food is all about regions and ingredients. Certain regions are famous for certain dishes, and you guessed it, that’s where they’ll be the best. Don’t be searching for the best Ceviche in Cusco, for example. Just don’t be that gringo.

A GUIDE TO PERUVIAN FOOD FOR DUMMIES

Seco de Frejoles con Cabrito [Dry Beans with Kid]

Mao happily eating his dry with kid.

¿Sorry, what?

One of the worst offenders from Google translate. No, Peruvians don’t eat children, you racists. They eat tender goat/lamb/cow/chicken children in a juicy coriander sauce. With tasty AF stewed beans and a mountain of rice.

It’s everything you need: slow cooked, hearty, tasty, juicy, green, and Mao’s favourite.


Umm yaaas, where?! 
Head to Chepita Royal (Lima), or La Glorieta, Tacna 


Arroz con Mariscos 
[Rice with Seafood]

Can never take a before photo because it’s soooo good.

¿Sorry, what?

While Google may have translated this one accurately, it does not do anything to describe how this is so. much. more.

This is where Peruvians enlist the work of magicians. They take [super fresh] seafood, and mix it with rice, ají [a super tasty but not super spicy chilli], a bit of tomato magic, and a bunch of unknown ingredients to create the best damn rice in the world. Move over fried rice, this is your sexier, fresher, less oily, and so much more tasty cousin.


Umm yaaas, where
? La Glorieta, Tacna, Mi Barrunto, Lima, anywhere near the ocean. 

Tacu Tacu [No translation]

¿Sorry, what?
Google won’t help you here. Tacu Tacu is a blend of mashed beans and rice, except sexy. It is crazy filling, but every bite is crazy delicious because again, magicians. It is normally served with seafood, Lomo Saltado [description below], or even Seco [you know what that is now!].

Umm… yaaas, where?! Go to Barranca outside the north of Lima, or anywhere in the far north of Peru.

Aji de Gallina 
[Chilli with [the mum of the] chicken]

Ají de Gallina made with love at Sunday family lunch.

¿Sorry what?

Mao’s favourite way of describing Gallina is that it’s the mum of the chicken. Move that morbid image out of your mind, and enter, Aji de Gallina. 

It’s a creamy creamy chicken stew made with yellow chilli. Not the spicy kind, the ‘this is a new flavour’ kind. The ingredients list also include bread, milk [not cream] and nuts, which does even less to explain this dish. But who doesn’t love [the mum of the] chicken, and creaminess?! 

Basically the comforting hug from your favourite Aunty that you’ve always needed.

 Umm… yaaas, where?! Basically all over Peru, try and get someone’s mum to make it for you.

Olluquito de Carne
 [No translation, with meat]

Menu del Día in Caraz 4/. Soles.

¿Sorry, what?

Try and suggest Olliquito is a type of potato and you will be lynched. It’s a kind of yellow root vegetable [NOT POTATO]. It’s thinly sliced and made into a stew, with meat. This dish has an earthy flavour, and the Olluquito bring a soft texture. It’s a traditional indigenous dish, so if you’re into social justice try this pre-colonial goodness.


Umm… yaaas, where?! 
Any menus del día in the highlands.

Rocoto Relleno con Pastel de Papa [Rocoto stuffed with cake of potato]

Now just imagine a creamy cooling potato bake next to it!

¿Sorry, what?

We’ve all tried stuffed peppers. But have you tried the Peruvian version?! Often stuffed with mince, olives, sultanas, you can choose from tears-running-down-your face spicy, or regular. I’d recommend the former, and this is where the ‘cake of potato’ swoops in to save your mouth. 

It’s a creamy, cheesy potato bake made with what are probably the tastiest potatoes in the whole world. A creamy cheesy mouth saviour. These two together are unstoppable.

Umm yaaas, where? Arequipa 


Tallarines Verde 
[Green noodles]

Lunch at Mao’s place, always so good.

¿Sorry, what?

It’s tempting to explain no further. Basically, this is badass Peruvian pesto pasta. They use fetta cheese to make it creamier, and serve it with a steak. It’s just really, really good.

Umm… yaaas, where?! Pretty much anywhere. 


Tallarines Rojos 
[Red Noodles]

¿Sorry, what?

Also fairly self explanatory. Pasta in red sauce often with chicken, except it’s not just tomato, it includes a bunch of tasty red peppers. It’s pretty fail safe in terms of tastiness.

Umm… yaaas, where?!  Pretty much anywhere.

Chupe de Camarones 
[Shrimp Soup]

Another delicious Sunday family lunch.

¿Sorry, what?

If I’d ever had seafood chowder, I’d say this dish was pretty close. One time I nearly cried while eating it. It was that good. If you love seafood, for the love of god, go now and find this. That is all there is to say.

Ummm… yaaas, where?! Arequipa baby.


Ceviche
[… you should not need to Google this one]

The classic.

¿Sorry, what?

Basically the god of food. Fresh fish cooked in lime juice served with sweet potato and roasted corn kernels. This is probably the simplest, most magic food of them all. And yes, Peruvian Ceviche is the best. Don’t be fucking around with ketchup and mayonnaise [soz Ecuador].


Umm yaaas, where? 
Northern Peru. Piura is the home of ceviche. It’s also permissible to try it in Trujillo, and Mancora.


Jalea 
[Jelly]

All the fried seafoods on one plate.


¿Sorry, what?

Nope. This couldn’t be further from jelly. This is a deep-fried-to-perfection pile of fresh mixed seafood. Maybe the Japanese Peruvians added a little of their tempura magic to the batter, I’m not sure. But there’s some type of magic there.


Umm… yaaas, where?! 
Northern Peru, anywhere close to the ocean. Don’t be seeking this out in the highlands.


Cuy 
[Guinea Pig]

Cheat alert! This is actually a trout, but just picture the face and tiny hands of a guinea pig splayed out morbidly instead.



¿Sorry, what?
Guinea Pigs are not pets, they’re food here. If you live outside South America this might be hard to try as it’s probably both frowned upon and illegal to take one from the pet shop and deep fry it.

If you can get past the graphic horror of its tiny hands and face staring back at you, the meat is surprisingly tasty and incredibly healthy.

Umm… yaaas, where?! Cusco, Puno, the highlands.


Lomo Saltado 
[Loin salt]

Me looking like loin salt blocking the view of the actual loin salt.


¿Sorry, what?
Another Google fail. This is basically the stir fry of your South American dreams. Good quality beef strips stir fried with soy sauce, cumin, Peruvian chilli, tomato and home made potato chips. Very tasty. Served with a mountain of white fluffy rice.

Umm… yaaas, where?! This is crazy popular everywhere, but originated from the Chinese influence… so it’s best in Lima.


Papa la Huancaína
 [Pope the Huancaína]

¿Sorry, what?

This dish does not involve eating a pope, but if that’s what you’re into, go for it. Basically, potatoes served with Huancaína sauce… a cheesy, chilli, nutty tasting sauce that is crazy addictive and basically makes anything taste like heaven.

Umm… yaaas, where?! This one you can find in most places.

Causa 
[Cause]

Classy Causa with Crab.

¿Sorry, what?

Well, aren’t potatoes a worthy cause?! This is basically the best mashed potato ever, filled with basically anything yummy. Sometimes with chicken or tuna with mayo, or even crab, octopus, and avocado. Served cold/at room temperature. Basically like a sandwich, but it’s mashed potato for the bread.

Umm… yaaas, where?! Lima and all over.

Conchitas a la parmesana
 [Shells with Parmesan]
¿Sorry, what?

Scallops in their shell covered with Parmesan and baked. So simple, so good. 

Umm… yaaas, where?! Anywhere near the ocean.


Choritos a la chalaca 
[No translation]

When Inca Cola takes over.

¿Sorry, what?

These bad boys are mussels cooked in the shell, covered with a salsa – a mix of chopped fresh tomato, red onion, coriander, and local corn. Fresh, and so tasty.

Umm… yaaas, where?!
Again, think ocean not mountains.

Escabeche [Marinade]

Typical family lunch, Escabeche to the right.

¿Sorry, what?

Well, yes this is chicken or fish in a simple but yummy marinade made from ají [you know what this is now!] and tomato. Usually served with an army of finely chopped red onions. One of those I just want something basic but satisfying options. You know, like a Tuesday lunch thing.

Umm… yaaas, where?! This is a menu del día type of thing.


Carapulcra 
[No translation]

One of these is Carapulcra…


¿Sorry, what?
Yeah, this one sounds [and looks] weird. Basically, it involves stewing a special type of dried potato [yes that’s a thing], peanuts, and spices like cloves, normally with pork. It’s like a potato stew, only earthier and more filling and more Incan.

Umm… yaaas, where?! 
Apparently this was a favourite of the Incas. So to get the real deal, first enter a time machine and just basically go from there.


Ocopa 
[No translation]


¿Sorry, what?

Even if you Google Image searched this bad boy you’d probably be confused. It’s basically a thick greenish sauce made from chillies feta, nuts and huacatay [black mint]. It’s creamy, nutty, a tiny bit minty, and very intriguing. Normally poured over potatoes and boiled eggs.

Umm… yaaas, where?! Arequipa is famous for this one.


Anticuchos 
[Barbecue]

¿Sorry, what?

Yes, this one is BBQ… barbecued hearts. It’s pretty simple, take a bunch of hearts, put ’em on a skewer, BBQ ’em with salt, and serve them to very drunk people on a Saturday night. These are crazy delicious when you’ve had more than a few too many Pisco Sours and are craving that salty, meaty, tender BBQ flavour.

Umm… yaaas, where?! The streets of Lima, or outside clubs [where literally anything you eat will taste delicious].


Pollo a la Brasa
 [Grilled chicken]

It looks like BBQ chicken. BUT IT’S NOT!


¿Sorry what?

This is Peru’s answer to charcoal chicken, but infer that it’s the same as regular charcoal chicken and YOU WILL BE KILLED. This one’s not the mum of the chicken, just the chicken, marinaded in secret magic, and slowly cooked. The result? The most tender and flavourful chicken, ever. There’s a reason it’s the only thing Americans know about Peru.

Umm.. yaaas, where?! Lima.

Chifa [Chinese]

Sunday banquet – the only option.


¿Sorry, what?

Lima has a big population of Chinese people, and therefore a lot of Chinese food. There are way too many dishes to list. But imagine all your favourite Chinese dishes, with a Peruvian twist. Chifa is good. Go on a Sunday afternoon with a group of friends and order a banquet. Don’t be a peasant.

Umm… yaaas, where?! Lima’s Chinatown area.

Nikkei [Japanese]


¿Sorry, what?

You guessed it, Lima also has a Japanese population. This food is so bloody good. Again, take all the things you love about Japanese food and add Peruvian magic. There’s way too much to list. But for example makis are sushi rolls, filled with Ají de Gallina, Lomo Saltado or Ceviche. Basically a food lover’s wet dream.

Umm… yaaas, where?! Lima, Trujillo.


Picarones
[Stings]

¿Sorry, what?

Like a thinner deep fried donut, only made with a pumpkin batter and served with a syrup made with cloves and cinnamon. Made from a vegetable, so basically a super food.

Umm… yaaas, where?! Street stalls in Lima 


Mazamora
[Porridge]

¿Sorry, what?

A pudding made from purple corn, fruit and spices. Basically the pudding form of the god of all that is good in the world, Chicha Morada [below]. Sometimes served with arroz con leche [rice pudding].

Ummm… yaaas, where?! Mao’s grandpa’s restaurant.


Chica Morada
[Chica house]

LOOK AT THE POWER IT HAS OVER ME!


¿Sorry, what?
The god of [non-alcoholic] drinks. They even grow purple corn especially to make this [AND NO YOU CANNOT EAT THE PURPLE CORN]. It’s a drink made from boiling purple corn, pineapple, and cloves. Lime and sugar are added at the end. It has a flavour like no other, and THEY EVEN MAKE AN ICE-BLOCK VERSION!

Umm… yaaas, where? Everywhere. And Donofrio make the ice block version.

Holiest of holies.


But in all seriousness, Peruvian food is amazing, and Peruvians are very proud about their unique flavours and ingredients. We hope you get to try something new after reading this. Let us know how you go.

And if you’re already a Peruvian food pro, what’s your favourite?? What did we miss??

36 hours to make the drop

Van info

So you want to buy a van in Lima Peru?

After months of searching, we found the one. A 1998 Mitsubishi Delica 4×4 Turbo in good condition. We check her out on a Saturday, she’s perfect and we want her. Badly.

The seller is an older guy, and wants the payment in cash (completely normal in Peru). We agree, not thinking about how we will access our money from our Australian bank accounts. He wants to make the sale on Monday. Great, we think.

FullSizeRender

When you find the one

On Sunday we realise it’s Easter in Australia and bank transactions are delayed. We call the guy to reschedule our meeting. He freaks, and says he has other buyers. We freak and say ok, ok, Tuesday morning 9am. 100% we will make the payment.

We now have 36 hours to make the drop.
Total balance needed: $5800*

SUNDAY
6pm: $0
We call our bank to confirm we can take out the $5,800 we need for the van at a bank in Lima. They said it should’t be a problem if we do a cash advance on our credit card.

Great (but expensive), we think. We will head to the bank first thing in the morning.

We research international money transfer services just in case. One promises same day bank transfers. But we don’t have a Peruvian bank account, and the family’s accounts are with the wrong banks.

MONDAY
9:00am: $0
Bank 1 discusses it for a while. Finally they concede we could take the full amount as a cash advance, but they only accept Visa.  We have Mastercard. We curse Mastercard. The ATM limit is $200 per day. We curse the ATM limit.

9.30am: $0
Bank 2 and 3 both say the maximum we can take out per day is $200. Because our card is foreign. We curse Bank 2 and 3.

10:00am: $0
Banks 4, 5, 6 & 7 all say the same thing. We curse all the banks. Dodgy bank 8 says they can do a cash advance from one of my cards up to $1,000. We have a small amount of hope.

11am: $0
We realise our only option is for Mao to open a bank account with Bank 3 so we can make an international transfer through World Remit**. Mao opens a bank account.
(**Not an endorsement for World Remit, I don’t recommend them).

1pm: $0
We call World Remit several times. Each time we are told it will only take a matter of minutes to transfer the full amount from our Australian bank account to Mao’s local bank account with Bank 3.

3:00pm: $0
We have spent over 2 hours trying to make the transfer. It’s not working. I am forced to make 5 transactions to make up the full balance. It does not take minutes for the funds to arrive.

5:00pm: $0
We call World Remit about 5 times. We are told they don’t actually know when the money will arrive because the local bank needs to review the transactions. We are running out of time.

5.30pm: $1800
At 5.30pm one of the transactions comes through into Mao’s bank account. The bank closes at 6pm. We sprint there. We take out the $1800.

We need another $4,000 to make the drop by 9am. We realise there is no way this is going to happen.

7:00pm: $1800
We call the seller to ask if he can come a bit later than 9am. He is suspicious. We reassure him everything is fine. He says he will come no later than 10am. We agree. We have to find a way to get the rest of the cash.

TUESDAY
6.30am: $1800
World Remit can’t tell us when our money will arrive. Our only option is to try and take it out at ATMs. I tell our banks what I am trying to do so they don’t block our cards.

9:00am: $4800
We have tried every ATM we have seen, and used every card we own. Somehow we have managed to get $3000 out over the past 2.5 hours. We have now been blocked by most of the ATMs. I go into a toilet and shove the massive wads of cash down my pants. It’s all in 20s.

In a city where Mao’s been robbed of his shoes, I’m freaking out carrying so much cash. I feel like everyone can see it, and like everyone is following us.

9.15am: $4800
We realise our last chance is dodgy bank 8. Of course they only open at 9.15am. The guy tells us no way we can withdraw the money. The max withdraw they allow from the ATM is $150. We curse dodgy bank 8.

9:30am: $4800
We are exhausted, paranoid, and shaky. We need the last $1000. We have come this far. We return to the ATM where we’ve been blocked. I try every card we own, over, and over again, in every machine. The security guard is starting to look at me funny. By some miracle, I get the remaining $1000.

9.45am: $5800!!!

We sprint home with the cash stashed down my pants. We can’t trust a taxi, we might get mugged. My heart is beating so fast.

The guy calls and is waiting for us at Mao’s house. Again, we assure him we are good for it, and we’re on our way. It crosses our minds that he could potentially mug us. He knows how much cash we are holding.

10.05am: $5800
I run upstairs to quickly count the cash. We drive with the guy to the Notario to do the paperwork.

11.30am: $5800
The paperwork states the vehicle is only $4800. I go to the bathroom and count out $1000 on the toilet floor, and stash it down my pants. 

We get a message from World Remit. Our money has finally arrived in Mao’s account. We curse World Remit for not getting it to us earlier, before we had paid $300 + in transaction fees.

12.00pm: $5800
Mao has to pay a fine before we can make the transaction. We have to go to a bank about 1.5kms away. We are in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. I’m still carrying all the money. I am freaking out.

1:00pm: $5700
The bank won’t accept our card to pay the fine. We don’t have enough Peruvian Soles. I have to pull out $100 from my pants. It’s fine, we think. We’re getting the van for $1000 less.

2.30pm: $5700
We finally finish the paperwork. The guy asks if we can drive around the corner to pay him. We give him the cash. He’s pretty annoyed that it’s in 20s. All of us are looking around to make sure no one can see out.

He counts out the $4700 asks why it’s not $5800. We realise we’re not getting a discount, the price in the paperwork was just for tax. We give him the rest of our money. There’s still the $100 missing.

After trying to work out what to do, I stay with the guy, who now has both the money and the van and keys. Mao jumps out to get the remaining $100. I pray the guy doesn’t just take off.

3:00pm: $0
All’s well that ends well. We get home. We have the van. We have no money. It’s now spread across multiple accounts and across two countries.

But we have the van. We made the drop. We cry with relief.

If you need anymore info on taking money out in Peru, or the process / paperwork for buying a car, please get in touch with us. I’d be happy to share what we learned.

(*Actual price changed because my inner concerned uncle told me not to write about this.)

A timecapsule

Uncategorized

What if someone asked you to recall every place you’ve been in the last 10 years?

That’s something I was tasked with recently. And to be honest, I really couldn’t remember.

IMG_9531

An ordinary evening in Lima. The view from the family apartment.

Not because the moments or places were not memorable. In the present moment I always think, how could I possibly forget this experience?

But then, time creeps up, and suddenly you can’t work out what memory belongs to which place.

Sometimes it’s just a small moment that falls out of memory. Like someone you met, the place you slept, or the delicious dinner you had. But when you do recall, it brings a flood of feeling for that moment, in that time.

I want to remember better. But I suck at keeping travel diaries. I do enjoy taking photos, they help me record adventures. But they don’t always capture these small, or every day moments, or even the feeling.

This particular trip is incredibly close to my heart. Mao and I have dreamed of it for so long. We want to capture and share our memories. Even the every day ones. The little, and the big, and everything in between moments.

So we can remember what we were up to in 10 years time. And be flooded with the feelings of the moment.

A timecapsule of sorts.

IMG_9502

Strolling in the afternoon with good company, watching Lima go by.