The food of Peru and its neighbors (Part 3 of 3)

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Away from the coast, animal proteins other than seafood are used. Chicken (_pollo_) is very common, whether served with rice in the ubiquitous _arroz con pollo_; in a soup (_seco de pollo_, found in Peru and Ecuador, or _cazeula de ave_ from Chile); roasted (_pollo a la brasa_ in Peru); and as a stew (_sajta de pollo_ in Bolivia). _Escabeche_, a stew in which vegetables are pickled in vinegar and then mixed with chicken is one example of a popular Bolivian meal that originated with the Spanish conquistadors of the 16th century.

pollo
(Photo: El Comercio)

Beef dishes are also popular with examples including _lomo saltado_ (a salted-beef stir fry served with fries and rice in Peru and Ecuador), _charquicán_ (a Chilean stew), and _caldo de costilla_ (a Colombian soup made with beef ribs). A popular meal served throughout Bolivia is _pique a lo macho_, a massive plate of chopped beef and sausage fried together with potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and chilies. _Ch’arki_ (similar to jerky) is dried, salted Andean meat that is used as either a snack or as an accompaniment to other dishes. Beef is the usual ingredient nowadays however, in Bolivia, llama meat is still widely used.

caldo
(Photo: Dtarazona/Wikimedia Commons)

In the highlands of Peru and Bolivia, and to a lesser extent in Ecuador and Colombia, the domesticated guinea pig (_cuy_) is a traditional dish either fried (_chactado_), roasted (_al horno_), or in a soup (Ecuador’s _locro de cuy_). Cuy meat is high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol and was originally consumed for ceremonial purposes by local tribes such as the Incas but nowadays is a more-or-less everyday dish with an estimated 65 million guinea pigs eaten in Peru every year. The meat from other domesticated animals, such as the llama and alpaca, have also been traditionally used in the Andes; alpaca, especially, is becoming more widely used in other regions.

cuy
(Photo: Phil Whitehouse/Flickr)

_Chugchucaras_ is a local specialty from the central Ecuadorian town of Latacunga which combines fried pork, _mote_, potatoes, plantains, _tostada_, fried egg, and is accompanied by a spicy _aji_ sauce. _Chicharrón_ (died-fried pork) and _lechón_ (roasted pork) is common throughout Latin America. _Seco de chivo_ (goat stew) is a popular dish from Ecuador. _Conejo Guisado con Leche de Coco_ is a Colombian stew made with rabbit and coconut milk. In the jungle regions of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia, more exotic meat sources include turtle, monkey, caiman, catfish, and piranha.

rabbit
(Photo: Bbb Commons/Wikimedia Commons)

Many of the region’s dishes also make use of offal, the cheaper parts of the animal, such as the organs, the heart, brain, stomach, as well as extremities like feet and heads. _Caldo de pata_ (a pig’s foot soup) is found in Ecuador whilst _guatita_ and _sopa de mondongo_ (stew-like soups made from tripe, or cow’s stomach) are popular in both Ecuador and Chile. _Anticuchos_ are a Peruvian snack in which ox hearts are sliced, marinated in vinegar and spices, and then grilled on skewers. _Ají de lengua_ (a stew of cow’s tongue in a spicy sauce) is a common dish that is served throughout Bolivia.

A number of different herbs and spices are used in the local cuisine to enhance the flavor of various dishes. Cilantro, or coriander, is a prominent ingredient throughout the region, especially for seafood dishes. More locally _palillo_, an indigenous Peruvian herb similar to turmeric, is mainly used to give dishes like _Papa a la Huancaína_ an attractive golden color. In Colombia the herb _guascas_, with a taste quite similar to fennel, is used in one of the national dishes, _ajiaco_, a delicious chicken soup. _Huacatay_ is used as a culinary herb in Peru, Ecuador, and parts of Chile and Bolivia, where its pungent flavor is very much an acquired taste.

cilantro
(Photo: Pixabay)

As well as fruits familiar worldwide, such as apples, bananas, limes, pineapples, and guavas, there are also some fruits that are almost unknown outside of the region and many of them are used in local desserts or even in savory dishes. _Chirimoyas_, known as custard apples in English, have a white creamy flesh filled with large black seeds and is said to taste like a combination of banana, peach, papaya, pineapple, and strawberry.

fruit
(Photo: El Comercio)

_Tuna_, or cactus fruit, has a bright red flesh full of tiny seeds and tastes similar to watermelon. _Lucuma_ has been very popular in Peru since the Moche era and nowadays it is used to make ice cream and appears in various other desserts. The taste can be very unfamiliar to non-natives but is often said to be a mixture of maple and sweet potato. Other fruits from the region are _pepino dulce_ (a sweet pepper that tastes somewhat like melon) and _membrillo_ (quince).

fruit(Photo: Lucuma peruana la fruta mas deliciosa del mundo Facebook)

There are numerous delicious desserts which tourists to the region often fall in love with and leave full of regret that they are unable to taste them once their vacation is over. _Alfajores_ are popular throughout the region but each country has their own way of making them. Their usual form is of two small, round cookies with a sweet filling in-between. Peruvian and Bolivian alfajores tend to be coated in icing sugar and filled with _manjar blanco_, a thick, caramel like sauce made by boiling sweetened condensed milk. Alfajores in Chile often contain other fillings such as mousse or jam and can be covered in dark or white chocolate.

alfajor(Photo: El Comercio)

_Arroz con leche_ is very similar to rice pudding which also contains nutmeg, raisins or regional variations, such as coffee in Colombia or egg yolk and orange peel in Peru. Ecuador has its own take on the dish, _morocho_, which is made using the morocho grain instead of rice.

Germans settlers to the central valleys of Chile in the latter part of the 19th century brought with them many delicious cakes and pastries, for example _kuchen_ which are still very popular today. A more traditional Chilean dessert is _mote con huesillo_, a dessert popular during the summer, which combines dried peaches soaked in syrup and served over barley grain.

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