Piura and Tumbes are coastal regions but they also count on dry forests, tropical zones and mountains. With such a diverse climate zone, it’s no surprise there is such a wide variety of ingredients that make northern Peruvian recipes exceptionally good.
One of the staple seafood dishes is, of course, ceviche. But if you think you know all there is to know about ceviche, think again. In the north, they coat fresh fish out of the water in lemon juice, add onion, limo chili, cancha (roasted and salted corn), mote (boiled corn), and yuca (cassava). As a side dish, you’re likely to find the tasty zarandaja– boiled beans that are typical of the area.
We recommend you try ceviche de conchas negras (black clams), clams that are harvested in Tumbes. Don’t let the black ink juice deter you, this dish is unique in flavor and presentation. Another ceviche to try is made with the tasty mero murique (a white, firm-fleshed fish).
Other great options include sea bass, langostinos (squat lobsters), crab, or mangrove scallops. It’s always a great idea to ask your server what is currently in season and to stick with those choices.
Hot seafood dishes in northern Peru are nothing short of amazing. These dishes are fixtures at the picanterias and chicherias (traditional lunch shacks) that you can find all over the north, especially in Catacaos and Chulucanas (Piura). From the fresh ceviche, to the mighty sudado (a cross between a soup and a stew), the dishes are prepared from whatever seafood is on hand on a particular day.
The sudado broth is made from tomatoes, chili peppers and chicha. It’s then poured into a deep bowl, with a generous portion of fresh-caught fish on top. You’ll typically find this dish accompanied with yuca and steamed rice.
A traditional Northern Peruvian lunch starts with a chilcano (not to be confused with the cocktail), also known as raise-the-dead broth. Traditionally made in Tumbes and Piura from fish heads, cochayuyo (a type of seaweed), and lemon, in recent years this dish has evolved and it is not necessarily made from fish heads anymore. The broth is topped with fresh lemon, chili pepper and parsley or coriander.
Finally, the hearty chupe is a stout broth containing vegetables, seafood, milk an egg, and sometimes pasta. Though it’s served as an appetizer, helpings are usually so large that it can easily be your main course. With that in mind: split a chupe with a friend, or order it as your entrée.
One of the classic dishes in Tumbes is majarisco, made from fried plantains (green banana) bathed in a sauce made from shellfish, squid, scallops, langostinos, fish stock, mangrove scallops, and octopus. It is seasoned with garlic, chili peppers, and coriander. Majado can be made using yuca, or stewed green bananas that are then mashed, mixed and served with a dressing made from onions, limo chili, and coriander. Traditionally, it is prepared using roast pork but also shellfish.
Malarrabia is another stew traditionally eaten on Fridays during Lent in Piura. It’s made with boiled and seasoned fish, a mash of plantains, onions, ajíes, tomato, and queso fresco made with goat’s milk.
You’ll also find seco de chabelo, a fascinating dish also made with plantains. Accompany your meal with a side of tamalito verde (green tamale), a specialty of the north. Unlike other tamales, this one does not have a filling but its tasty dough made with maize and coriander will win you over.
There are many sweets to be found along the northern coast, check out our list here. We suggest you start off with natilla (a sweet spread) made from goat milk, flour and chancaca (a sugar-based sauce). Other popular desserts are chumbeque de miel (a sweet cake made from egg yolks, spices, and honey), a soft spread called manjar blanco, and quesillo.
Cover photo: mswine/Flickr
Source: Ultimate Journeys
This article has been updated from its original publication on August 21, 2018.
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