Oh Peru, how do I love you, let me count the ways…
So I spent 3 weeks in Peru over the festive period! I will admit, I was daunted by the idea of my first trip to South America, and I’d been warned about safety in Lima in particular.
I was lucky enough to have a friend who’s from Lima invite me over (hey to the lovely Natalia – we worked together at the Berlinale Talent Press 2008!), and she showed me some amazing places that tourists won’t necessarily know about. I ended up loving Lima (I’m a city girl at heart). Plus, of course, that whole Machu Picchu thing is alright…
So, in no particular order, my Peruvian top 10:
Lima’s a fascinating city on the sea (love those, hey Barcelona!) with lots of greenery and cheap cabs (got to get through that traffic somehow). I visited the Villa El Salvador shanty town with Edwin of Haku Tours, cycled down Lima’s Costa Verde with Jose of Bike Tours of Lima and made a million cat friends in Kennedy Park. I stayed in Miraflores and La Victoria (with Nati and her boyfriend Nico). We went drinking and then brunching and then art appreciating in Barrrranco (aka Barranco). We invented artists’ retreats in lush beach resort La Punta. I gazed at ancient ruins in the middle of the city while eating fresh, delicate prawn dumplings in a Chinese-Peruvian restaurant, in a casino. Lima is a joy.
Lima is the gastronomic capital of South America. Limeno cuisine involves lots of seafood and fish, as well as having strong Japanese and Chinese influences. The national dish, ceviche (pictured above), includes raw fish and seafood that’s ‘cooked’ by the lime and chilli marinade it comes in (called leche de tigre, tiger’s milk), and comes with giant corn and sweet potato (the very orange shape in the bottom left corner above) to help cool your tongue down! I absolutely love ceviche and was in heaven – must be tried!
3) Japanese-Peruvian Food
Above is an example of Japanese-Peruvian food. Sitting opposite the chefs at Edo Sushi Bar, I got chatting to one of them, who spoke English alongside Spanish and Japanese. She made me a couple of special pieces, like this tuna-esque nigiri (couldn’t translate the Spanish name of the fish unfortunately!) with ceviche sauce. Incredible! I went out for sushi about 4 times in the week and a bit I spent in Lima – it’s so well done and much, much cheaper than in London. Nobu’s first restaurant is in Lima, Matsuei. When I read about it, I immediately ordered a taxi and went for lunch! Seriously silky sashimi and ceviche rolls, in very generous potions – I over-ordered ridiculously!
4) CHIFA: Chinese-Peruvian food
Chifa, or Chinese-Peruvian food, can be found on pretty much every street corner in Lima, and is very popular in Peru. It’s intriguing how Chinese food is always adapted to the local palate. Chifa is less greasy and spicier than English Chinese food, I’d say. Above is fried rice with lomo saltado, a classic Peruvian beef stir fry. The sauce includes pisco and soy sauce (I made one in a cooking class), showing how far the Asian fod influences go. This meal was eaten in a restaurant I considered fairly dodgy looking, but it became one of the highlights of my trip! And all for only 12 soles, which is £2.55 (it also came with a wonton soup starter).
At the other end of the scale is Madame Tusan, leading Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio‘s take on posh Chifa. Nati, Nico and I had the signature dish, Duck in Four Acts: duck with pancakes (Peruvian-style – closer to tortillas), lettuce-wrapped duck, duck noodles and duck soup – gorgeous!
If you do nothing else in Lima, EAT CHIFA!
4) Pisco Sours
Pisco sours! Why they’re so good, I don’t know, but I love sour drinks so this was always going to be a winner for me. Pisco is a grape brandy that smells harsh but tastes smooth – I brought some back for my colleagues, and one described it as a bit like sherry! It’s shaken up in a cocktail shaker with the other ingredients, including egg white, and the traditional flavour is lime. Maracuya’s also a good one – sweet passionfruit. Careful though – pisco is seriously strong!
The chocolate’s scrummy, and when melted, definitely worth dipping churros into. I did a chocolate workshop at the Choco Museo in Miraflores, and made llama-shaped chocolates! Sadly, they didn’t cope too well with the 25 degree celsius heat in Lima, so I *had* to finish them there rather than bring them back home. Soz, family and friends. 🙂
So the first 5 reasons are all food- and drink-based! Look out for Part 2 where I’ll talk about things I did not consume!