One of the best parts of traveling is discovering new and amazing food and flavors. In my book, it is absolutely on of the best ways to experience a culture. That said, one of the first places we head when we are in a new country or a new city is the local market. Why you ask? Simple, its easy to miss what a food culture is really about if you gravitate towards the first restaurant you find with an english menu, if you want to see what folks eat for lunch, what ingredients make that food culture come alive, and if you want to find a place to snack around, talk to the locals and learn about the city quickly – there is no better place than the city market!
That said, Peru is special. If you get in a cab in Brazil, you may find yourself in a conversation about football, but if you find yourself in a cab in Peru, you are probably talking about what you had to eat!
Peruvian food is so unique, it is absolutely not to be missed. With an incredible set of influences including a great Asian diaspora, Andean ingredients, and the european influences are just a few in a long list of incredible factors that culminates into what we believe is one of the worlds most exciting and undiscovered food cultures.
This of course has led to some of the best restaurants in the world popping up accross Peru where brilliant chefs are doing remarkable things with flavors and ingredients not well known outside of Peru. Though that is a topic for another post, I fully believe the best place to start are Peru’s markets. Peru has so much diversity from region to region that standing in these markets feels like completely distinct experience and so we suggest a visit to them all!
co-presents Peru month with G Adventures
, this is a good time to plug the fact that G Adventures trips are designed to give you the freedom to explore by yourself or with friends you make in their small group tours and your Chief Experience Officer is always there making sure you have the best trip possible!
Mercado Central de San Pedro – Cusco
Cusco is one of the highest cities in the world, an absolute must for any Peru trip and a required logistics point if you are headed to Machu Pichu. One word of advice, at 14,000+ feet, altitude adjustments can take a few days so take it slow, or better yet, check out Machu Pichu first (several thousand feet lower) to get adjusted to the altitude and come back up to explore Cusco properly.
Cusco has amazing food that is distinctly different than Lima – The food here has roots that go all the way back to the Inca’s. You see this clearly walking through the incredible Mercado Central de San Pedro.
Is that a face? Why yes! Just down the isle, you can find the jaw served in a amazing soup, rich and citrusy. The fact is, you don’t have to be in bits and pieces of animal to appreciate the amazing diversity – 100’s of stalls service incredible meals line the market – each unique and distinctive. Follow the lines and eat where you see the locals eating – There are flavors hiding in this market that you have never tasted – we promise you.
Case and point – there are way more varieties of Potatoes and Corn than I ever imagined – why should you care? This is the same story for most of the veggies you see in the stalls, that means there are flavors you would otherwise never taste – go for it!
My favorite meal of the day was the chicken soup stall. I know it sounds a bit boring right? Chicken soup is chicken soup right? Wrong!!!
Remember those Potatoes? Those unique flavors you can’t find anywhere else in the world? Nothing demonstrates that more than this soup – you can’t miss it, it smells amazing and there is always a full house.
Come hungry and plan on having a few meals while you are here, and come back the next day and have a few more! Maybe try the roasted Guinea Pig or Cuy while you are in town .
Mercado Squillio #1 – Lima
Located in the district of Surquillo, the Surquillo market is blocks from Parque Kennedy in Miraflores – the trendy district of Lima with a great food and bar scene. The mercado in Surquillo is an enormous, genuine place where locals do their shopping. A wide range of fresh Peruvian fruits, vegetables, herbs, meat, fish, seafood and even harder to find ingredients can be had throughout.
Along adjoining Calle Narciso de la Colina, a gastronomic boulevard was opened in 2010 where you can find some amazing meals!
There are an endless amount of options for Ceviche in Lima, don’t pass up some of the Ceviche spots in and around this market, nothing like Ceviche in Lima.
Central Market – Lima
This market is all about the staples people by every day, it’s a multi-story market and has some great stalls that line the outside. This market is also very close to the next selection, Lima’s China Town – Check them out in one trip.
While here, don’t forget to try Anticuchos – they are various types of meats cooked on skewers and typically marinated with amazing Peruvian peppers. These are not spicy mind you – but they are amazing !
Mercado Chino o Calle Capón (China Town, Lima)
Peru’s Chinatown is one of the 2 oldest in the hemisphere. The neighborhood formed over 150 years ago and has had a considerable influence on the local fare. Peruvian chinese food is called Chifa and is a fusion of Cantonese cooking with Peruvian ingredients. This neighborhood is large with a ton of eating opportunities so come hungry!