Food in Peru… the final installment…

OK…. now that the mediocre lunches and the large variety of soft drinks are out of the way – what else does Peru have to offer food wise? Well, quite a lot – and it’s mostly good – it seems like ‘set menu lunches’ are Peru’s weak spot. and the rest is not too bad…

So let’s start with a few bits and pieces that can be found on the streets of Peru…

First off – mazamorra and arroz con leche. We had mazamorra a few times as dessert on set menus – and if you remember, it was not much of a favourite of ours! We always wished for arroz con leche (a kind of rice pudding) instead (it never seemed to be on set menus…) as it was WAY more delicious (but not as good as in Argentina…)

These ladies are selling mazamorra and arroz con leche.
Mazamorra – a kind of jelly-like dessert.

In Arequipa, they have a local speciality called ‘Queso Helado‘ – which means literally ‘cheese ice-cream’ – yes, it may sound weird – but it’s AWESOME! 🙂 In fact, it doesn’t contain any cheese… it’s made from milk, condensed milk, and cinammon. It has been made in Arequipa since the 16th century. Apparently nobody knows why it’s called ‘cheese ice-cream’… it’s a mystery…!

The streets of Arequipa are full of traditional ‘queso helado’ sellers.
A queso helado up close.

Next up, some street snacks – good stuff was actually harder to find than we expected – there seemed to be chicken and chips everywhere – but we found a few nice treats.

Fried cassava in Cusco – pretty good!
On the way back from Caral ruins we found a seller of tortas fritas. This lady also had a great big tub of spicy salsa – YES! We even went back for seconds 🙂 (Yes, very nutritious 😉 )

Our favourite and most-eaten snack in Peru was toasted corn. You could buy it in bags almost everywhere, and we were almost NEVER without a supply of it. We stored it in our room, and ate it as soon as we arrived back from anywhere.

Two bags of toasted corn. The one on the right was meant to be a bit spicy – but it didn’t quite hit the spot.

Plantain chips or ‘chifles‘ were also a good snack – these only really appeared in the north of Peru though. (Clearly we will eat anything that is fried…!)

Packet of chifles.

Moving on to more healthy snacks, we come to a fruit that we especially liked to eat. Part of the reason for our fondness of this fruit was the way that you eat it. You crack it like a hard-boiled egg and pull off the hard skin on the outside. Inside is gooey mush of flesh and seeds. With half of the skin removed, you can put your mouth over the top of it, and suck out all the flesh and seeds. VERY SATISFYING! 🙂 The fruit is called Grandilla, and it’s a type of Passion Fruit.

Two granadillas.
This granadilla is ready to have the insides sucked out of it! 🙂

I will also give a special mention to ‘fruit salads’ – which are available in a lot of Peru from places that also sell cakes and drinks. What you are imagining as a ‘fruit salad’ probably doesn’t match what you will get in Peru though! 🙂 They do contain fruit, but they often have a whole ton of other ingredients too – such as nuts and grains.

This fruit salad came with fruit (of course), cream, and SIX grains (quinoa and a bunch of others – some of which we had never heard of…).

All of this brings me to cakes…. yes CAKES!  Yep, Peru is FULL OF CAKE. It really is – there are cake shops EVERYWHERE, and the cakes are generally pretty good. We ate a LOT of cake in Peru – it was our compensation for the lousy set menus 🙂

Our favourites from Peru were the ‘budin’ – which is bread and milk pudding (with various other additions depending on the recipe), and ‘tres leches cake‘ – this cake is soaked in milk, condensed milk, and evaporated milk – hence the name (‘tres leches’ means ‘three milks’). A good tres leches cake is AMAZING! 🙂 …yum yum

So without further ado – here is a gallery of cake… (including some things that might technically be called ‘pastries’ :-))

Some delicious budin from Arequipa.
Alfajores from Arequipa. These were excellent.
This dessert is called ‘lengua de suegra’ – which means ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’! 🙂 🙂 Yes, that’s not very politically correct is it! 🙂
Nut cake from Lima – excellent, but slightly dry.
We had no idea what this was – but it looked interesting with its 3 layer design. The top layer was jelly, the middle layer was creamy, and the bottom layer was quite chocolately. PRETTY GOOD!! This cake is from the city of Barranca.
Tres leches cake from Trujillo – AWESOME! 🙂
More tres leches cake from Trujillo – we went on a tres leches binge in northern Peru.
‘Passion fruit cheesecake’ from Trujillo. This wasn’t much like cheesecake really – but it was not too bad a cake.
‘Tres leches dessert’ – technically not a cake – but based on a cake… This one is from Piura.

When we weren’t eating cakes, we did a fair bit of self-catering in Peru as well, and I can also happily report that it was usually possible to find bran cereals for our breakfast – yes, a bit of bran for breakfast goes a long way! 🙂

Peru even had its own local, cheap fibre cereal product – which was our bran of choice when we could find it. It wasn’t sold everywhere, so we had a ‘try three supermarkets and then give up’ policy put in place by the cereal committee (PB and CC).

Peru’s fibre cereal – made by Angel.
‘Life’ – second choice cereal – not as good as Angel…
All Bran – last resort cereal – expensive.

When in hostal shared kitchens (as opposed to an airbandb), generally it’s good to keep the cooking simple (due to dirty kitchens, too many people, only one pan.. etc…) We found a couple of ‘heat up and go’ type options that were actually not bad at all.

Lentils in a tin.
Spicy beans with rocoto chillies! YES – this was great, and actually a lot spicier than most of the lunches that we found.

Now let’s talk about some drinks… the national drink of Peru is of course pisco. The pisco in Peru was pretty good – we did some tasting in Ica.

Coffee in Peru was along the usual South American lines of ‘most people just drink Nescafe’….. BUT we found our favourite instant coffee of the trip in Peru! (Yes, how times have changed for us…. we have a favourite INSTANT coffee…. 🙂 ) It was a little more expensive than the other instant coffees, but the coffee committee (CC and PB) approved additional budget expenditure.

Even people who speak Quechua drink Nescafe.
Altomayo coffee – the best instant coffee in South America… AND it has jaguars on the packet! 🙂

Peru actually makes a fair bit of wine as well – but it’s a bit of an acquired taste, as it’s VERY sweet. In the interests of scientific research we tried a bottle – it was a bit sweet for our tastebuds, but could have been worse…

Peruvian malbec.

Moving on to chocolate… well, after the delights of Bolivian chocolate, we figured that Peru would be able to do great chocolate as well…. BUT NO! We were disappointed by chocolate in Peru – we tried three different kinds before we gave up and decided that Peru sucked at making chocolate.

Chocolate from the Cusco area – variety pack of five flavours. Overall not very good flavour.
Ginger chocolate from the ‘Choco Musuem’. Not enough ginger flavour. Chocolate very average. FAIL.
Dark chocolate from the Peruvian Amazon… average…

So, having given up on the ‘proper’ chocolate, we moved on to the cheap supermarket chocolate and tried a ‘Sublime’. Sublimes are a Peruvian institution, and are made by a comany called D’Onofrio, which has been around since 1859. Of course like everything else, it’s now owned by a giant multinational (Nestle) …..

We really liked Sublimes and started eating them EVERY NIGHT 🙂 Although the chocolate part was a bit rough, they are full of nuts which made the flavour OK with us! 🙂 Sublimes came in milk chocolate and dark chocolate varieties. Confusingly the milk chocolate version was called ‘smile’, and the dark chocolate one called ‘bitter’. The dark chocolate one was far superior – but quite a bit harder to find. The ‘smile’ thing is part of their very LARGE marketing campaign – they had billboards everywhere.

Sublime – bitter.
‘Dress with a smile!’ Sublime billboard.
PB re-creates the Sublime smile.
Sublime also make ice-creams. These were average…

We tried a few other cheap sweet treats, but only one other one made the ‘quality shortlist’ – small caramel filled ‘mecanos’.

Mecanos – small, but quite tasty.

The tradition of products made from coca leaves that was in Bolivia, continued in Peru. Generally speaking they were not very awesome, but we had a packet of coca sweets to suck on high-altitude bus journeys – as they supposedly helped with altitude sickness.

Coca sweets.

So… there you have it! A bit of a mixed bag from Peru… but always something new to try!

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