Since Mexico we have been really missing great food (other than the food I make in the XP kitchen) =). The food in Central America is not bad, it is just boring (rice, beans, chicken, plantains…repeat). In Colombia and Ecuador the exotic fruit and produce are what stole the show for us, but I don’t remember many meals I wanted to have again and again. That to me is a sign of a great meal, one I just can’t stop thinking about.
Peruvian food is an interesting combination of indigenous Quechua recipes with staples like red and blue corn and the 4000 varietals of potatoes that are grown here. That traditional food combined with over 500 years of Spanish, African, Chinese and Japanese immigration has resulted in a melting pot of food options and flavors.
In the mountains one of my favorite dishes was Carapulcra, a dehydrated potato soup with pork, chiles, garlic and spices. Another dish in almost every restaurant in Peru is Lomo Saltado, a stir fry of beef or alpaca with vegetables. This dish has a definite Chinese influence, but Peru has made it its own and every small restaurant does it in its own special way. The quality of this varies, along with the tenderness of the meat, but it is a dish that is you can count on for being good if you don’t know what else to order.
It was in Peru where we got back into our foodie paradise of bright flavors and deliciously prepared food that came in a wide variety of options. The food here was consistently good and while we enjoyed many great meals all over the country, Lima was really where it was happening. Even if you don’t like big cities, Lima is worth a visit for a few good meals that can range from some of the top restaurants in the world, to food stalls where you can get flavorful grilled anticuchos (beef hearts) for a dollar. Look on every top 50 restaurants list of the world list, and I bet there are at least three from Lima. This city had arrived on the food radar.
Some of the most notable chefs in Lima that I have read about over the years are Gaston Acurio, who is exporting the flavors of Peru world wide in award winning Peruvian restaurants, Rafael Osterlings whose restaurant Rafael is famous and looked delicious (it was closed when we went on Sunday, probably a good thing for our budget), and Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s restaurant Malabar, that we could not afford on this trip, but we will come back and eat at one day.
We ate at a huge variety of places in Lima, most of them in the Miraflores and Barranco area. Here are some of our favorite experiences:
My favorite food in Lima (and all of Peru) was from the cebicherias, hands down the must eat in Peru. I thought the ceviche was good in Mexico, Peru takes it to a whole other level (sorry Mexico….). I think part of what makes it so delicious is that it is made from corvina, a Peruvian sea bass that is a succulent, tender, delicious white fish. Also, I think the Peruvians have a wonderful balance of chiles, red onions and lime and the fish is always very fresh. I never had bad cebiche in Peru. We tried a bunch of different versions of it at many different places and they were all good. Here is my low down on my favorite seafood plates at Peruvian cebicherias in Lima.
As soon as we crossed into Peru we saw signs for Chifas. Authentic chifas (slang for Chines restaurants) are everywhere, but our favorite were in Lima’s Chinatown which is about six blocks southeast of Plaza Mayor. We opted for Dim Sum when we ate out in Lima’s Chinatown because it was something we ate often in San Francisco and have definitely missed on the road. The Dim Sum here was wonderful, just very complicated to order.
They don’t roll around carts like they do in the US. Instead, you get a huge piece of paper and have to check off the boxes of what you want to eat. There was over fifty option. The challenge is they were all in Chinese, not even Spanish! I was able to order almost exactly what we wanted (thanks San Francisco China town for the education!) and we had some wonderful dishes with a few surprises that turned out great (no chicken feet thank goodness….).
In California, sushi is a favorite treat for us and ramen was a weekly staple (not the package kind, but real Japanese ramen from the abundance of California ramen joints). There have been lots of sushi places during our travels, just not many good ones. All the sushi and ramen we ate in Lima was great and really affordable for what you got. We went to sushi over and over, we were just as sad to leave the sushi as the cebiche when we left Lima.
Our other favorite Lima eats
Luis from Lost World Expedition is my favorite overlander foodie. He spent almost five years in South America and always gives us the BEST food recommendations. So two of our favorite places were because of Luis’s suggestions. I am so glad we followed his advice!
We only had a few drinks out on the town in Lima, the bars were very hip and stylish with the prices to match, so we saved our money for the food and only went to a few places for cocktails. The places we went definitely did not disappoint.
Overall our time in Lima lasted longer than we anticipated because we were having so much fun eating and exploring we could not leave. We love to spend most of our time off the grid in nature, but I have to admit, there is nothing like a great meal in a city that knows about food. After five days in Lima, our waistlines were bigger and our pockets much thinner, so we decided to head back into the wilds and explore Paracas National Park. And start to hike off some of the 2 million calories we consumed in Lima!