Deliciosa: la comida de Peru (Peruvian food)
New York City has a plethora of amazing and unique restaurants, but have you ever heard of an Australian/Peruvian fusion restaurant? Last summer when I spent two months in Cusco, Peru, and a very cool restaurant called Two Nations, was one of my favorite places to eat. It is owned by a personable and enthusiastic Australian and his Peruvian wife. The restaurant had a great atmosphere—customers were allowed to write and draw on the walls so you got to lay your stamp there, and see all the signatures and inscriptions of people from across the globe.
Food was a HUGE part of my trip. One of the staple Peruvian entrees is called Aji De Gallina—this dish was hands down my favorite go-to eating out meal. It consists of shredded chicken in a Peruvian pepper (aji) and walnut based cream served over rice and potatoes and usually comes with a hardboiled egg and olives on the side. Absolutely delicious.
Other common entrees are Lomo Saltado (a flavorful stir-fried beef and potatoes), Palta a la Vinergarette (an avacado in a smooth tangy cream sauce appetizer), and stuffed peppers.
If you have a guinea pig as a pet, skip this paragraph! Because guinea pig (Peruvians call it cuy) is a staple in the diet of natives. This is because guinea pig are very low maintenance and cheap to raise, so it is a great food source for the lower income families who have very laborious lifestyles (Peru is considered a 3rd world country). Honestly, it tastes like chicken just not quite as good. But if you order it at a nice restaurant, they serve it whole and may even serve it in a running position, which is comical. Locals sell cuy on the street, straight up on a stick! (In traditional Peruvian culture, the brain is considered the cuy serving of honor!)
Also, llama is an acceptable meat in Peru. You can order it in burgers and other dishes in restaurants.
There is definitely no shortage of beverages in Cusco as well. If you are just looking for a regular cervesa (beer) you have to try Cusquena, a cheap Peruvian beer. Also, the big mixed drink in Peru is called a Pisco Sour. Pisco is a type of liquor. This lime drink is great and refreshing. Most Peruvian families have their own recipes for it, and they usually make it strong! Cusco sits at around 11,200 ft above sea level, so you have to remember that at that elevation it is definitely easier to get a buzz!
Speaking of drinks, one cannot forget Matte de Coca (Coca tea) in Peru. Native Peruvians think coca cures every illness (including cancer!). Usually it is served as very hot water with full coca leaves sitting in it. Coca is a great source of energy; the natives chew it like one would chew tobacco—its effects are similar to a very strong coffee.
Something to beware of: Peru’s health and safety regulations are comparatively nonexistent. One has to be careful what one eats. Be weary of street food (even though it smells amazing) and even at restaurants do not eat the lettuce served with your meal or any vegetable that has its skin still on it and do not chew the ice cubes in your drink.
Pio Pio and Mancora are two Peruvian restaurants in NYC. Pio Pio is slightly better quality in my opinion, but I enjoyed both. Gracias!