What to eat when you’re hostelling in… Lima, Peru
Peruvian food is a fascinating blend of South American, European, and Asian flavours, and while it’s constantly being tipped as the ‘next big thing’ in dining, folks in other nations never quite seem to catch on. So if you want to get ahead of the curve – and, more importantly, chomp on some fantastic food – you should be looking at our hostels in Lima, the capital of Peru and arguably the gastronomic capital of all Latin America. The city is enjoying something of food tourism boom, as backpackers and tourists slowly wake up to the fact they can enjoy an amazing culinary scene alongside historic sights like the grand Plaza Mayor square and San Francisco cathedral.
Here’s what to sample when you arrive in town…
This fiery flash-fried steak dish combines traditional Asian flavours with New World flair. Every Peruvian mum has her own take on the classic. So does every restaurant. Using sweet and sour ingredients that arrived with Chinese migrants in the 1850s, you marinade the meat in soy sauce and garlic, sometimes cumin, then stir fry the steak with strips of jalapeno pepper, onion, sometimes potato, and serve it all on a pillow of white rice or fried potato.
A truly memorable ceviche is only possible with a freshly caught fish marinated in citrus and hot spices. The art of ‘cooking’ fresh fish with citrus arrived in Peru with the Spanish colonials centuries ago. Some claim, though, that it reaches back nearly two thousand years. Whenever it arrived, from that moment on, lunchtime in Lima hasn’t looked back. Perfected down the years, ceviche is now best tried at Punta Azul on Av. Primavera, which offers excellent value for money.
Picture a swiss roll made with a base of spicy chilli, lime and mashed potato, and a filling of chicken, olives or seafood. That’s the Peruvian catch-all known as causa. Served with hard-boiled eggs, avocado and a pile of salad, it eats like a spicy, colourful potato salad.
Lucuma is the most treasured of Peru’s native fruits, and tastes like a cross between maple syrup and sweet potato. Thanks to a tough avocado-like skin, it’s not really one to pick off the tree and munch – instead, get a couple of scoops of lucuma ice cream or frozen yogurt or even a breakfast smoothie, then kick back and let the sounds and smells of the capital wash over you.
These are stuffed peppers, Peruvian style. Originating in Arequipa, in southeast Peru, rocoto relleno is a very hot dish. The peppers are significantly spicier than the sweeter bell peppers that Europeans and North Americans are used to. A typical recipe has raisins, a sprinkling of paprika and cumin, plenty of succulent beef, a chopped hard-boiled egg and a pile of olives and cheese. A great spot to give rocoto relleno a try is the budget-friendly Cafe de la Paz on Calle Lima.