Will Travel For Food

Food & Wine, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, Peru — By on August 15, 2006 at 5:14 pm

The Lost Girls may misplace our luggage or get turned around from time to time, but the one thing we rarely lose is our insatiable appetite (except when we discovered chicken feet floating in our soup). Before we left for this trip, I had visions of any excess pounds just melting away as we desperately searched Peru for something, anything, to eat that satisfied us (after all, we would be in a third world country). But instead, we discovered a magical land of foamy Pisco sours, mouth-watering brick oven pizza and chocolate bars at every turn (No joke! You can buy Twix on the Inca Trail). Since we were no longer bound to our desks and had plenty of time for afternoon jogs or hikes, we felt it would only be fair to allow ourselves to indulge in everything this country had to offer…our stomachs. After all, it was our duty as world travelers to shed light on the misconceptions others might have about Peruvian cuisine. Even though we’re on a tight budget, we took our responsibility very seriously!

Our typical day goes something like this:

9:30am – 12pm: Wake up and whine that it’s too early (if it was before 10am) or realize that we’ve slept in (11:30am) and may have possibly missed our free breakfast of stale bread, jam and freeze-dried, crystallized coffee. Oh, the horror! We race to the breakfast den of our hostel du jour for a quick bite. Stuff some extra pieces of bread in our bags for later and discuss where we want to go for lunch.
12pm – 2pm: Purchase a pre-lunch sundae or candy/popcorn/lollipops from local kids
4pm-6pm: (Lunch – meal times shift drastically in foreign countries) Fill our bellies with a delicious, yet super cheap pre-fixe menu. Five soles (approximately $1.50) can get you a bowl of creamy soup, arroz con pollo with French fries (a Peru staple), a yummy dessert and sometimes a glass of wine or Pisco sour.
8pm-10pm: (No Peruvian eats dinner much earlier) Grab a pre-dancing/drinking snack. Or kill two birds with one stone and indulge in a delicious dinner at a trendy restaurant that turns into a club or lounge later in the evening (if we skipped the 4pm-6pm lunch). Still a cheap evening as even our most expensive meal ran us only $45 total.
11pm-4am: Dance the night away, arrive back to our hostel at dawn with all of the other backpackers and flop down in our twin beds. Rinse and repeat!

To permanently memorialize our best finds to date, here is our top ten list of favorite foods and most interesting eating experiences in Peru:

1. Caramel Banana Pancakes – It didn’t take long for us to find the most amazing sweet treat in all of Cusco (Holly has the best dessert radar I’ve ever seen). We’d heard from every single traveler that the Irish and Aussie owned Jack’s restaurant was the absolute best, and they were absolutely right! Along with the uber thick pancakes smothered in caramel and topped with warm banana slices, we also found several other fave foods at this eatery, including #4 below.

2. Tacu Tacu – A native dish, this creamy blend of beans and rice can take on Taco Bell any day. One of our favorite restaurants in Lima, Tanta, served up a designer version topped with sautéed filet mignon and fried quail eggs. I ate the entire dish almost making myself too full to indulge in the birthday cake we had ordered for Amanda – but not quite!
3. Empanadas – As avid international diners, we’re no strangers to these hot pockets filled with meat, cheese, veggies or seafood. But now, with empanadas available everywhere from snack shacks to the airport food courts, we’ve became even more devoted devourers!
4. Veggie burgers – We thought we’d be more likely to find these healthy patties back home, but were delighted to stumble across several menus that offered meatless burger options. Between Jack’s restaurant in Cusco and the Rocha Hostel food stand in Haucachina, we more than tapped into our organic side – we overflowed it!
5. Alpaca – Some might cringe at the thought of tasting Peru’s ubiquitous furry friend (a cute little animal that’s a cross between a llama and a sheep), but the abundance of this dish, its low cal count and supposedly savory flavor, tempted our taste buds to the dark (meat) side. After sampling teriyaki alpaca medallions at Inka Grill in Cusco, we were hooked – and enticed to order it again on several occasions.
6. Quinoa – Packed with more protein than a Powerbar, this popular grain is en vogue across Peru, served in almost every dish imaginable. Our hands-down faves were the silver dollar pancakes from the Parador del Colca hotel in Colca Canyon and the creamy soufflé side dish from Inka Grill in Cusco.
7. Tropical Fruit – You’d often hear one of us at breakfast exclaim, “what is this that I’m eating, it’s delicious!” Peru is simply overflowing with fabulous fruits that we’ve never encountered on our native US soil. While we weren’t always sure what we were trying, we never hesitated to pack our plates with our most exotic fruit finds.
8. Sweet popcorn – With as much walking, hiking and general exploring we’ve been doing in Peru, we often went more hours between meals than most Hollywood starlets. Luckily, we discovered this tasty street treat that satisfied our sweet tooth and kept our blood sugar in check until dinner.
9. Brick Oven Pizza – While the thought of eating pizza seemed far to ‘American’ for our travel tastes, we couldn’t turn the corner without stumbling upon a half dozen different pizza pubs boasting the country’s best brick oven offerings. What we tried outdid even Ray´s Famous in NYC – but don´t tell Ray!
10. Fresh cantaloupe – If you should ever find yourself on a cruise boat sailing down the Amazon River with a melon in tow, but without a way to open it, no worries! Simply ask the friendly boat staff for a huge knife to cut your cantaloupe with. They don’t mind, really! Amanda successfully procured a machete-like object and voila! Fruit for everyone!

Hopefully Peru’s eclectic and scrumptious assortment of cuisine will be with us in spirit as we enter less food friendly nations, where fried insects are a delicacy and household pets are, gulp, sometimes served on a platter. I can feel my stomach getting flatter just thinking about it! Bon appetite!

— Jen (aka The Yennifer in Peru)

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  • Hothousemomma says:

    When you were in Lima did you happen by a bar named Mandela’s?
    If so, a friend of mine moved from San Francisco to Lima to open a bar and get away from the city life.

  • Janet says:

    I bid on this blog because I LOVE the concept. I’m also a bit envious, too. Thanks for accepting!:)

  • Cat says:

    I love this blog and reading it takes me to far away countries so quickly. I think sharing this experience like you do is an incredible thing.

    I think I’ll go plan a trip and start saving! 😀