Post By Ian Wolfe
When I learned I would be taking a trip to Peru over the Summer with CAUSE 2017, everyone I knew, without a doubt, said that Peru is one of the best places in South America to try great food! As a foodie myself, I set myself a goal to try as much local food as possible and never eat the same meal twice. Here are a few of my favorite meals from my ten days in Peru!
Street Food – Oh my golly gee. Without a doubt, every piece of street food that touched my tongue was delicious. Multiple times, my dinner consisted of food from little stands on the streets of Lima, Cusco, and Aguas Calientes. For me, the decision was easy. Locals were munching on the food like I would gobble down a carrot cake on my birthday, so I couldn’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The only thing I actually knew the name of that I tried was Mate – a traditional tea infusion served hot in a plastic baggie. The bag would be tied up, the steam would puff up the small plastic bag and then a straw could easily be stabbed into the bag for the perfect portable tea experience. It was hands down some of the best tea I had ever tasted and had some sort of raspberry-lemon type flavor. Other great choices from the street vendors, none of which I ever learned the names of, included a flank steak kebab with a potato on top, a puff pastry, mini donuts that tasted like a better version of funnel cake, and some random chicken sandwich where I knew none of the toppings that were on it (except for tomato). Overall, 10/10, would recommend.
Alpaca – My first experience with alpaca involved seeing white and brown balls of fluff standing in fields grazing and minding their own business. Never did I think, that fluff-ball must taste great! However, given the first opportunity in Aguas Calientes to try alpaca, I didn’t hesitate to turn it down. This roller coaster ride of intrigue as to what alpaca would tasted like ended up with a meal of overcooked meat that tasted like a well-done frozen steak, only made slightly better by the great quinoa on the side I had to smother the meat in to get some flavor. However, when staying in Ausangate, the lodge where we were staying prepared alpaca meatballs for our final meal; it was OUT OF THIS WORLD!!! Never had I eaten a meatball with so much flavor. To every “grandma’s meatball recipe” out there, take a hint! I really wish I could have had it again!
Empanadas – When in Cusco, we discovered a small store that sold a large variety of empanadas. They looked good, smelled good, and after getting one, tasted GREAT! I ended up trying the chicken empanada and the spinach empanada and after biting into both, I knew that the chicken had to be the best flavor. It was seasoned so well and I was amazed that something heated in the microwave for only 20 seconds could be so good. A few others tried the quinoa empanada and after some quick banter as to which flavor was best, I knew I had to try the quinoa empanada to ensure that chicken was indeed the best. I was wrong, oh so wrong. The quinoa empanada almost melted in my mouth like authentic pecking duck. Already amazed at the tasted of something cooked in a microwave, I was not astonished that I ended up choosing a non-meat flavor as the best. I felt I had betrayed my ways, but the stomach knows what the stomach wants. The quinoa empanada was so good that I had to go back for a second and third one later in the week when we returned to Cusco at the end of the trip.
You know, everyone I talked to was right. Peru is a food-lovers paradise. I originally wanted to write this blog post about my favorite and least-favorite meals from Peru. However, there were so many worthy meals that were oh-so-drool-worthy, as well as only one meal I had any qualms with, that I felt I needed to highlight the best of the best. While there were a few dishes I failed to try, ceviche (raw fish with lemon juice) and cuy (roasted guinea pig), I know that an opportunity will arise at some point in my life to check such dishes off my list.
Oh, and they don’t kid that locals only eat potatoes in the mountains. They’re everywhere and we tried many of the hundreds of varieties that are grown. So many that within a day of me returning to the United States, I had to mention to my mom not to make potatoes as I felt like my monthly potato limit had been reached while in Peru.
Thank You Peru for a gastronomical experience of a lifetime!