I planned a quick weekend in Lima during my trip to Peru, after about two weeks in Cusco, and it is a city that is definitely worth exploring. Before arriving in Lima, I’d connected with a friend that I’d met going to university in Southern Utah. He was Peruvian, and was living back in Lima after studying and working in the United States. He was excited to show me his city, and asked me what my preferences were for sites and activities. Food! That was my preference. I’d heard so much about the food scene in Lima, and I was hungry for a culinary experience. He planned our weekend in Lima centered on this topic, and did an amazing job of giving me a taste of the diverse, and delicious, food in Lima.
I arrived in Lima on a Thursday evening. My intro and our first stop was Ayahuasca for drinks and Anticuchos, in the Barranco District in Southern Lima. Ayahuasca is a labyrinth of a bar and restaurant that is located in an old (very large) mansion in Barranco. There are multiple bars, and each room has a different theme. We ordered Pisco cocktails, a Pisco sour and a chilcano. Pisco is the national liquor of Peru, which is similar to a Brandy without the berries for color and flavor. The Pisco sour is a cocktail made with Pisco, lime juice, sugar, and egg whites. It is vigorously shaken causing the egg whites to create a foam layer on top of the cocktail, this is topped with cinnamon or bitters. The chilcano is also made with Pisco and is a cocktail with ginger ale, and lime juice, and sometimes bitters. Other juices are also frequently used to make these two cocktails besides lime juice, and we repeatedly ordered both with passion fruit juice. At Ayahuasca we also ordered Anticuchos, which is a typical dinner in Peru. Anticuchos are skewered beef heart medallions that have been marinated and spiced, then grilled. The meat is very flavorful on account of the spices, and is a deep red color. The texture is very thick, but not chewy.
The next day I went on a hunt for a churro shop that was said to have the best churros in all of Lima. I found the shop a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas, and wasn’t disappointed. The churro, not the typical fried stick type I was expecting, was a sweet tubular pastry, rolled in sugar, and filled with warm caramel sauce.
After the churro, it was Pisco sour time. I’d made it my goal while in Peru to try, and judge, as many Pisco sours as possible and there were a few more I needed to try in Lima to complete my sampling. At the Museo de Pisco, you can taste all different types of Pisco, and take a quick training and learn how to make your own Pisco sour. The recipe they use for the Pisco sour at the museum is four shots of Pisco, one shot of simple syrup, one shot of lime juice, and one shot of egg white. Pour the ingredients over ice, then shake! Shake! Shake! The bartender will give you a quick demonstration and recipe run down, then you are invited to come behind the bar to actually make your own drink. I’ll happily say that this was my favorite Pisco sour during my three weeks in Peru. It might have been that I made it myself, or that it had four shots of Pisco, it was perfect!
I decided to try one more Pisco sour from the Gran Bolivar hotel; this is where you go if you want a Pisco sour with the real housewives of Lima. It couldn’t compare to my four shot, handmade Pisco sour, but was worth the trip to the hotel’s bar.
In between my Pisco tasting afternoon, and anticipated late night of drinking with my Peruvian friend, I took a nap from about 8pm to Midnight.
In true Peruvian style, we met for drinks shortly after midnight and started our bar hopping at Victoria Bar in Barranco. This was another gothic style mansion turned bar. We ordered maracuya (passion fruit) infused chilcanos. Next it was Santos bar for the popular cocktail called Algarrobina, and across the “Bridge of Sighs” to Picas for chilcanos and salsa dancing. All three of these bars are within walking distance in the historical Barranco neighborhood.
After any late night of drinking, I always need a late night snack. It seems every drinking culture around the world has a certain type of food to help the drinkers soak up the alcohol after a long night out. Peru and Lima are no different, there are many establishments serving typical late night food around Barranco. The “drunken” food in Lima did not disappoint, it was the perfect blend of salty, greasy, carb-filled goodness that you need after a night of drinking. Most restaurants have basically the same menu consisting usually of a chicharron type sandwich, salchipapas, and lomo saltado. The chicharron sandwich is usually fried pork medallions, with fried slices of sweet potato, sauce, on a hard roll, served with a side of fries. Salchipapas and lomo saltado are kind of fusion foods, combining a little bit of Chinese influence with local ingredients. Salchipapas is sliced hot dogs, fried, served over French fries. Lomo Saltado is a stir fry like dish, usually with beef and vegetables, served once again over French fries. In Barranco, check out Don Bajadon, which literally means Mr. Hangover Food, Chinito (the little Chinese guy), and Alfredos.
After staying out till 5:00 a.m., the next day started fairly late. I was meeting my friend for a lunch of ceviche at his favorite place for the Peruvian dish. Usually, ceviche is served for lunch, and is best during the day, when it is fresher as the fish was caught that morning. Ceviche may or may not have been the reason I came to Peru, you can find ruins anywhere, but good ceviche is pretty hard to come by and Peru is known for its ceviche. To me, ceviche is like a cross between sushi and salsa. The fish used in ceviche isn’t cooked; it is raw and marinated in lime juice and tossed with onions and sometimes various sauces. My friend took me to Mi Propiedad Privada, and the ceviche and seafood spread he ordered us was glorious! He ordered us a platter of fried seafood, and a platter or raw seafood. The raw platter had two types of ceviche, large Peruvian corn, and causa. The fried platter had fish, calamari, shrimp, and mussels. I was in heaven; this was the meal I came to Peru to eat.
After a large lunch, washed down with beer and chicha; a sweet, spiced Peruvian drink made from purple corn, we headed to the modern neighborhood of Mira Flores. After walking off our food babies, we visited La Emolienteria for a warm glass of emoliente. Emoliente is a tea-like drink consumed in Peru, usually with lemongrass and other herbs, and a linseed gel that gives the drink texture. This bar served a variety of emolientes, and created cocktails from the tea-like beverage. Emoliente is known to cure just about any ailment, digestive, or respiratory. The warmth and the thick texture create a soothing throat coat, and are very cozy on a chilly night. In the summer, the drink can be iced and is quite refreshing.
Next door to La Emolienteria is the flagship Wong grocery store. Wong to Peru is like Whole Foods to the US. I always visit a grocery store when I’m traveling, not necessarily to buy anything, but to just take a deeper look into local life. You can learn a lot about a culture and place by its grocery store. Since my friend worked in the food sourcing industry, he was able to give me quite the tour of the multi-level, high-end grocery store. We explored the local produce, naming each exotic vegetable and fruit, looked at the fresh fish, and spent some time identifying different Piscos and wine. One thing he was quick to point out is that the frozen/packaged food section was extremely small compared to American grocery stores. Peruvians enjoy buying the raw ingredients; produce, bread, dairy, and meat, and didn’t have much interest in overly processed food products.
Eventually, we were ready for dinner, as usual in Peru on a Saturday night, dinner came late. From early on, much like the United States, Peru has had a number of Chinese immigrants move for work in mines and on the railroad. With the Chinese people, comes Chinese food and much like American Chinese food, Peruvian “Chifa” isn’t really relatable to Chinese food, but is now a local food. We went to an old school Chifa restaurant, complete with private, curtained booths. We met up with a few more friends, and planned our attack on the menu. What I really liked about my friend was that he was a professional “orderer.” He knew just what we should get, and how much at any of the restaurants we visited. Our Chifa meal consisted of Inca Kola (The only drink allowed when eating Chifa,) won tons, noodle soup, fried rice, and a cashew chicken dish. Inca Kola is a local soda that tastes much like banana and bubblegum mixed. It is super sweet, neon yellow, and has twice the amount of caffeine in a Coke. Some say that the true flavor used is chamomile and various fruit flavors. I secretly wondered if the “Chifa” contained MSG, and what type of potent compound was being created in my body by combining it with the Inca Kola. This entire meal was enjoyed inside our private booth, and if you needed the waitress for more Inca Kola, you’d clap really loud two times.
Although I vowed for an early night, I couldn’t resist and ended up staying out till early morning yet again (It might have been due to all the caffeine in the Inca Kola.) We had drinks at Maldes de Corazon in Barranco, and went back to Picas for a night cap, followed by lomo saltado at Roky’s.
Sunday morning, I was packing up to leave Peru, but not before a visit to the grocery store to stock up on yellow chili sauce, Inca corn, Inca Kola, and Pisco. My foodie weekend in Lima was a complete success, in large part to knowing a local. This is the way a city, and food, should be enjoyed.
Peru met and exceeded all of my expectations; it is a destination I’d keep at the top of your travel list. I was able to enjoy about three weeks in the country; hiking, eating, and exploring. The main attraction for any traveler is usually Machu Picchu, but give yourself a little extra time to really enjoy Cusco, and some time to explore (and eat your way through) the capital, Lima.
To explore more of Peru with me, you can follow links to my other adventures in this great country:
Those Avos are huge 🙂
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