Apart from the cuy (see Food Part 1) Peruvian food is delicious: many fruits and vegetables (more on those in another post coming soon), meats of all kinds, seafood, excellent chicken, the best French fries ever, good bread, delicious seasonings. The list goes on. Peru is well known for its potatoes, there are over 1,000 varieties (and dozens in daily use), and cholco, which is corn with huge kernels. Peruvians love their starches; many meals come with both French fries and rice, in addition to a roll or slice of bread. Juice is also quite popular and while I have yet to find a food processor in a store, I have seen countless juicers and numerous street vendors sell freshly squeezed juices.
It is quite cheap to get a good meal in a restaurant. A couple of weeks ago we had lunch at a cevicheria, La Base, in Cajamarca. This time there were no French fries, but there were the best cancha, or corn nuts, ever. These were freshly roasted and came to our table a little warm, crunchy on the outside and creamy/starchy on the inside. Nothing like the hard teeth breakers we buy at the bar at home! We each had the ceviche misto, which was a plate of fresh ceviche made with shrimp, octopus, and squid. There were two root veggies on the plate, which appeared to be boiled, and cholco. One root veggie was similar to a sweet potato and the other was white. Neither of them did much for me, so I focused on the ceviche instead. Total cost for the meal, including waters and a tip was 29 soles or $10.88.
Many restaurants offer only a special menu at the lunch hour. The menu usually includes a roll; choice of salad or soup; a choice of entrée, often fried fish, breaded fish, lomo saltado (beef/veggie stir fry served over, you guessed it, French fries), chicken, a pork dish or cuy (we are done with that!); fresh juice and sometimes a dessert. The entrée comes with a veggie and a starch or sometimes two starches. Matt and I went to Tuna Café in Cajamarca and for 9 soles ($3.38) each we had the following: a roll, glass of fresh fruit juice, chicken soup or salad (we had soup, see the water blog), chicken with sautéed veggies and rice (Kerry) and a beef stew with rice (Matt), and a caramel pudding. Everything was fresh and delicious and our entire meal and tip was under $10.
We have also had some lunch misses. We have tried a few cheaper joints both in Banos and in Cajamarca. At one place the daily lunch special (soup, main dish, juice) was 4 soles and the food was not very good. Plus the place was just too dirty for me to feel comfortable with the food and I kept hoping the soup had been boiled for 3 minutes! We ate at another place in Cajamarca that was packed with locals for the 5 or 6 sole lunch, and while it was a little better, it was not a place we will return due to the lack of cleanliness and sub par food. For the low price at a “good” place, we do not need to eat at a bad one!
One day we treated ourselves to lunch at one of the nicer restaurants in town, Querubino. They do not serve a daily lunch special so we ordered off the menu. I had a lovely fish, although I cannot now recall what kind, served with sautéed veggies and rice. Matt had a beef carpaccio appetizer and a steak served with French fries and sautéed veggies. We each had a drink and bottled water. Total price was 87 soles or $31.32.
Rotisserie chicken is a specialty in the area due to the farming, and we have had excellent chicken both at home and in restaurants. For 10 soles at our local restaurant we can get ¼ chicken, salad and French fries that are to die for. Condiments are usually served with meals and while I have never been an American condiment fan (no ketchup, mustard, mayo or ranch dressing for me!), I love the Peruvian condiments. Aji, is a pepper sauce and ranges from mild to really spicy. Then there is an herb, garlic, olive oil sauce that is incredible. Often there is a mayo type item and ketchup, but I ignore those.
We are doing our best to return to low carb eating, but it is difficult, if not impossible, with the type of foods prevalent here. So we try to keep carbs like bread, sweets, rice or potatoes out of our house and to eat them in moderation when we are out. I am never very successful with the French fries, though, and fear the cancha will be another one of my downfalls!