Pisco Sours: Pisco, fresh lime juice, bitters, and sugar topped with an egg white. This is a drink for those ready to embrace their time in Lima. If it doesn’t come with these ingredients as a base (some may add chicha, coca leaf, or gooseberries) then they aren’t making it the Lima way.
Sandwiches: I realize how this sounds. Sandwiches are a typical meal for Peruvians, breakfast , lunch, or dinner. The best, melt-in-your-mouth, crave-in-the-middle-of-the-night sandwiches are found at La Lucha. There’s always a line and it’s always worth it. Wash it down a fresh fruit juice made of whatever concoction you can come up with on the spot.
Causa: Think yellow mashed potatoes – only these are made with olive oil, aji amarillo, lime juice, and avocado. Now stuff them with fish (or a meat or hard-boiled egg), mold them into cake-shapes, and eat them cold. This is a causa and it is delicious.
Ceviche: Fresh fish, peppers, lime juice, and salt. This is basically Peru’s national dish. You cannot go wrong.
Suspiro de Limeña: A rich dessert made of Peru’s version of dulce de leche and topped with meringue, this is a Peruvian specialty. Don’t let it’s look fool you – this is not a light dessert; it’s rich, sweet, and decadent.
Grilled Pulpo: Octopus can be found on nearly every menu in Lima for good reason – it’s fresh. Grilled octopus should be simple, lightly oiled and tossed on the grill, but make sure yours isn’t rubbery. If it’s rubbery, it’s been grilled too long.
Chicha Morada: This beverage is made from Peru’s purple corn. Similar in taste to a fruit juice, it is made by boiling the purple corn with cinnamon, clove, pineapple, and sugar. You can find this served as a straight juice, in popsicle form, or as a slush.
Pollo a la Brasa: This roast chicken has been marinated in soy sauce, red peppers, garlic, and cumin. It is served with spicy dipping sauces (win!) and fried yuca (or fries, depending on the place). Foods in Lima tend to be starch-heavy so prepare for both potatoes and rice to come with many dishes. Thankfully, the meats and fresh vegetables are delicious and easy to fill up on before you even dig into those heavy sides.
Anticuchos: The ultimate, great-smelling street food. Catch one whiff of these babies on the grill and your mouth will start to water. These, of course, are cow hearts on a stick (which means I don’t eat them) and, according to J and the line of twenty or so people, are delicious. I’m not one to get squeamish about eating strange or simply strange-looking foods, but I know some of you recoiled just reading “hearts.” Don’t think about it and give them a try though, your taste buds will thank you.
Cuy: If the beef hearts didn’t get you, this one probably will. Cuy is guinea pig and is served in many Peruvian dishes. It is a dark, tender meat, not unlike rabbit or duck. This is another dish you may think about only trying if you absolutely have no other choice, but look, you’re in a foreign country to experience the culture and this is just a piece of it. Take a bite.
– M. Ray Hall