Sunday, May 8, 2016

10 Things Not To Eat and Drink in Peru

1.  Coca Tea

Coca tea is a staple of the Peruvian culture and  huge bags of the leaves are obtainable just about anywhere for a pittance.  Nothing is simpler than grabbing a handful of the unrefined leaves, popping them in a mug, and filling up with water. You are left with a soothing, mildly flavoured cuppa with about twice the stimulant properties of a good cup of coffee. I really should have emptied my case of useless clothes and whatnot, upon my return, and filled up with bags of this stuff. I ran out about two weeks after my return and am reduced to drinking a refined, processed brand of this wonderful concoction!

2.  Coffee

I'm not much of a coffee drinker but I couldn't resist trying out one of the great south American staples during my visit and now I'm pretty much addicted. I'm not sure what beans they use but I had the most delicious, nutty, smooth tasting cups of Java everywhere I went. Now that I'm back home, I keep chasing the dragon, and am eternally disappointed at my failure to find that perfect cup of black gold!

3.  Ceviche

Classic ceviche dish.

Never had it before and the whole idea of chowing down on some raw fish wasn't exactly appealing to me but as they say, "When in Rome..." We were advised at numerous establishments that ceviche is only eaten for the mid day meal and never at night. This is because the fish should be fresh from the sea and on your plate in a matter of hours. You will dream of the amazing citrusy, fresh flavours of this classic Peruvian dish for months after returning home (at least I have) knowing you have no chance in your landlocked province of Ontario to re-experience this little dish of succulence!

4.  Causa Reilena

Another light tasting, cold classic Peruvian item that we were introduced to by the hosts of our hostel in Ollantaytambo. A layered potato dish with chicken or tuna, this is an item that has many variations and twists so that you are constantly surprised when ordering in various establishments. Sadly, I will need to add this to my repertoire of culinary creations from my own kitchen if I hope to re-experience!

Causa Reilena

5.  Pisco Sour

Pisco Sour
You may not be a cocktail aficionado but once you taste your first classic Pisco Sour in Peru, you will pretty much make this the staple drink for the rest of your trip. Made with Pisco (a white brandy), raw egg white, lime juice, syrup and Angostura bitters this is a refreshing and very morish beverage for any time of day! You will be greeted at many establishments by a small free sample just to hook you in but be warned, the regular size can be a little more in the range of fish bowl size and a few of these bad boys can certainly pack a punch!

6.  Roasted Cuy

Guinea Pig...yes, I know that we think of the furry little darlings as pets but in South America this is standard fare said to taste a little like gamey chicken (doesn't everything taste like chicken!). The guinea pig is typically skinned, skewered and roasted over a barbeque. It may not look appetizing to our uninitiated northern eyes but millions of South Americans can't all be wrong. And get ready because reportedly the trend is moving North...a gentleman was recently approached in a park in New York after someone reported he was roasting squirrels...turned out to be guinea pig!

7.  Clay Oven Pizza

I know it doesn't sound very Peruvian but when we travelled through the Sacred Valley you couldn't enter a restaurant that didn't have a central clay oven in which made to order pizzas were being slowly baked to perfection. We were in danger of just eating pizza for the first few days of our trip because of the delicious aromas emanating from these ovens!

Best pizza ever!

8.  Alpaca

Alpacas are ornery creatures hailing from the same biological family as camels. They are bred and raised in the higher altitudes of the Andes and although their hair fibre is a major source of material for the famous textile industry, they can also be a tasty delight on the plate. Alpaca burgers, braised alpaca, alpaca steak and other fares for the meat lover are found throughout Peru. You may just end up giving up beef for this tender, flavourful alternative!

9. Potatoes 0r Papas

Fun Fact - Peru has over 4000 varieties of potato.  If you aren't concerned with putting on a few pounds while visiting Peru try eating your way through a few dozen different types. I feel a bit traitorous to my Irish forefathers when I say that I have never had better tasting chips anywhere in the world!

10. Squid, Octopus, and Other Delicacies of the Sea

I've never been much of a seafood lover in general but Peru has changed me for ever. This is a paradise for some of the most delectable, mouth watering tidbits of sea life prepared in countless manners. I will now be searching for that delicate piece of perfectly seasoned octopus where-ever I go in the world!

...and don't forget the beer by the pool!

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