Delicious Eats in Arequipa (by Carmen)
We finally made it to the last country on our South America itinerary – Peru! We have been looking forward to this moment for a long time. The reason, simply, is the food. I have always loved Peruvian food. A childhood friend’s Peruvian mother exposed me to the cuisine early on. And I couldn’t get enough of the roasted chicken at a Peruvian restaurant my family would frequent when I was young. But now I was at the source, ready to to make new culinary discoveries as well as seek out some of my favorite dishes.
We were on our way to Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city. But to get there we first had to spend a night in Puno, a small city near the Bolivian border. Not a whole lot going on there but we did get to ride the cute little mototaxi between the hostel and the bus station. I loved it! I’m sure we’ll be seeing tons more once we get to Asia.
Once in Arequipa, we found a lovely city with pretty architecture, a bustling center, and dramatic mountains surrounding it. The city was living up to its reputation of being a great place to stroll around but we wanted to check out its other claim to fame: gastronomic excellence. We wasted no time in getting to Zig Zag, a cozy upscale restaurant in the old part of town.
Zig Zag was fun, if a bit over the top (we were served a cocktail for two out of an ostrich egg cup). We indulged in their specialty, which involves your choice of meats that come out of the kitchen still sizzling on a lava rock. We opted for pork, alpaca and lamb, which came with little triangle flags announcing each one. The perfectly cooked meats were paired with creamed quinoa and a few dipping salsas. For our next meal, we decided we were ready for Peru’s famous seafood dishes.
So we asked our hostel owner where the best ceviche in town could be found. She directed us to El Cebillano which turned out to be excellent advice. We started off with some delicious leche de tigre (tiger’s milk), which is a small glass of the acidic juice they soak the seafood in. Nathan asked for his to be picante, and I think it was the spiciest thing I ever tasted. It was like pure chile juice! Next up we got ceviche de pulpo (octopus ceviche) served three different ways. In the states, we are more familiar with the ceviche that is soaked in lemon juice. In South America, we’ve also encountered creamy ceviches. These are tasty but I still prefer the sourness of the lemon.
Another recommendation from the hostel took us to El Nuevo Palomino. Here we opted for an Arequipean specialty, chupa de camarón. It is basically a seafood stew with a wonderful, creamy broth. Hints of saffron and paprika made the flavors reminiscent of spanish paella. And the dish was enormous. This picture is of just one of our bowls after we asked them if we could split it. We really didn’t need the side dish of rocoto relleno (a pepper stuffed with veggies, cheese and ground meat) but we couldn’t resist. Rocoto relleno turned out to be one of our favorite Peruvian finds.
We had satisfied our fine dining fix while in Arequipa and it was time to hit our favorite part of any town, the market. This one didn’t disappoint, with lots of people and a balcony to watch all the action below.
It was in the market that we found one of my favorite snacks in Peru, the chicharron (fried pork) sandwhich. They sliced up a big slab of chicharron, slapped it on a bun, slathered it with salsa and onions and handed over all for about $1. Just perfect. As you can tell by now, Peruvian cuisine isn’t very vegetarian friendly. We were still missing our veggies but at least the flavor range and been seriously improved in Peru.
There was one more find at the market, our guagua de pan (bread baby). We happened to be there on Mother’s Day and the tradition is to buy these little bread loaves in the shape of bundled infants. They have these tiny ceramic faces baked into them – I found them irresistibly cute. And the sweet bread was surprisingly tasty!
Our stopover in Arequipa was a great (re)introduction to Peruvian food and I was looking forward to more in Cuzco and Lima.