If you ever had the chance to visit Peru, you were probably able to sample the local cuisine and most of us can agree: Peruvian cuisine belongs to the best in the world! Food in Peru is rich in flavors and textures and nutritionally dense, with a proper degree of umami in almost every dish. It is influenced from many sides, Andean cuisine with its unique native crops like quinoa and choclo, Amazonian cuisine with fruits like lúcuma and guanábana, special preparations of fresh fish and seafood like ceviche from the coast, and the cooking practices from various groups of immigrants, like West Africans, Europeans, and Chinese, creating a famous fusion cuisine known as Creole Cuisine (Cocina Criolla). With such culinary diversity, it is hard to explore everything the cuisine has to offer. Therefore, let me introduce you to the best Creole cuisine in Lima and where to find it!
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If You Happen To Feel A Little Lazy
I know holidays are meant to be fully enjoyed. Sometimes, you might want to try all that amazing Creole cuisine that Lima has to offer but you just don’t feel like walking through the streets all day just to scout some decent restaurants. Don’t worry, there’s a solution to every problem. In this case, I recommend booking a Lima food tour. Simply follow a local guide who will take you to the city’s top eateries to find the best Creole cuisine in Lima while you can simply relax!
The Best Creole Cuisine In Lima And Where To Find It
So you’ve decided that guided food tours aren’t quite for you and you’d rather find the best Creole cuisine in Lima independently? Then here’s everything you need to know!
The most famous Peruvian dish and my personal favorite: Ceviche!
Ceviche is raw white fish fillet marinated and softened in lime juice, accompanied by onions, choclo (big white corn), boiled sweet potato, and often roasted corn. There are different versions of this dish, including Ceviche Clásico (only fish fillet), Ceviche Mixto (fish fillet and mixed seafood), and Tiradito (with a creamy yellow sauce). The juice that is produced when making ceviche is called Leche de Tigre (tiger’s milk) and often sold separately as a hot, tangy, and refreshing shot.
Although also found in general restaurants and markets, ceviche is usually sold in specialized seafood restaurants (cevicherías) that also sell other delicious seafood dishes like Chicharrón de Pescado (fried fish and seafood pieces), Pescado Frito (fried whole fish), and various seafood soups. Cevicherías can be found all across Peru but the best ones are undoubtedly found by the coast, where the fish is as fresh as it can get. My personal recommendation is by the beach in Chorrillos.
DISCLAIMER: Don’t expect to find ceviche for dinner. Many restaurants serve no more ceviche after lunchtime to ensure the freshness of the fish.
Closely tied with Ceviche for my favorite dish is Anticuchos, marinated and grilled beef hearts, often served with a piece of papa amarilla (boiled yellow potato) or choclo. Despite often being sold on the street, Anticuchos are also part of many restaurants’ menus. One restaurant dedicated to this dish is famous Anticuchería De La Tía Grimanesa in Miraflores, owned by Señora Grimanesa, whose Anticuchos are praised as the best in the world. Another place to find great Anticuchos is the scenic restaurants in Barranco.
Pollo A La Brasa
Another one of my favorite Peruvian BBQ delights is Pollo A La Brasa, perhaps the best grilled chicken you’ll ever taste. Pollerias can be found anywhere in Lima and other places but popular chain restaurants include Pardo’s, Norky’s, Don Belisario, and Roky’s.
Causa/Papa A La Huancaína/Ocopa
Peru is known to be home to over 1000 different types of potatoes, making the crop a popular ingredient in Peruvian cuisine. This photo contains three different dishes: Causa, Papa a la Huancaína, and Ocopa. Causas are cake-like rolls made out of a mashed potato mixture filled with tuna or chicken. Papa a la Huancaína is a dish consisting of boiled potato in a creamy yellow sauce (Huancayo Sauce), often accompanied by eggs. Ocopa is very similar to Papa a la Huancaína but it comes with a green sauce. Such potato dishes can be found in most restaurants and canteens. This photo was taken in the canteen on the top floor of a Wong Supermarket.
Rocoto Relleno, or filled rocoto, is a type of pepper called rocoto filled with cheese and minced meat. It is accompanied by a boiled potato with a thick yellow sauce. This dish is more likely to be found in larger, more comprehensive restaurants than smaller ones. I actually tried this dish for the first time at a Peña, a popular Peruvian folklore show.
Lomo Saltado, Wontons, And Other Chinese-Influenced Dishes
Lomo Saltado and Wontons are two examples of dishes inspired by Chinese cuisine that came into existence after Cantonese immigrants had to find ways to replicate their home-style dishes with Peruvian ingredients. Lomo Saltado is sliced beef steak stir-fried with bell pepper, tomatoes, and onions. It is generally accompanied by white rice and french fries but this one, in particular, comes with yellow noodles. Wontons are a type of Chinese dumplings that is very popular around the world and generally found in soup or deep-fried. There are plenty of other Chinese-Peruvian dishes, such as Arróz Chaufa (fried rice) and Aeropuerto (mixed vegetables and meat fried with noodles), on the menus of Chifas (Chinese-Peruvian restaurants). Chifas can be found in pretty much every corner across Lima but the most authentic ones (together with delicious Chinese bakeries!) are located in Chinatown.
Tamales and Humitas are some of Peru’s most popular breakfast foods, in case you get tired of simple white bread for breakfast. Tamales are corn dough filled with meat and steamed in a banana leaf, quite similar to Chinese Zongzi. Humitas are very similar to tamales but are smaller and have a slightly different flour and often sweet filling. You’re less likely to find these dishes in popular restaurants for lunch or dinner time since they are considered a breakfast food. We usually buy these ones in the deli section at Wong Supermarket and warm them up at home.
Pastel De Choclo
Another breakfast food I really enjoy is Pastel de Choclo, a type of cornbread filled with minced meat. The sweetness of the corn combines perfectly with the buttery flavor of this dish, making this dish almost a treat. However, the protein from the meat also makes this cake a balanced way to start your day. Together with quiches, smoothies, and sinfully delicious pastries, you can often find Pastel de Choclo in cafes.
BONUS: Pisco Sour
When it’s time to celebrate, you can’t possibly get around Pisco Sour, Peru’s most famous alcoholic drink, a mixture of pisco brandy and lemonade. Since Peruvians find something to celebrate almost every day, be prepared to get drunk all the time! Although you can find this drink in literally every bar, I recommend enjoying it during a folkloric Peña.
Peruvian Creole Cuisine is incredibly diverse and there are sooo many more dishes that aren’t listed here. This is only a compilation of my personal favorites but I hope I could make you hungry enough to already plan your next trip to Peru. Also, keep in mind that Lima is a huge city full of amazing restaurants and markets, so rest assured that you’ll find delicious eats, wherever you go.