If you're expecting a vegan exploration of Peruvian food, you're gonna be extremely disappointed. As in other trips, my curiosity about the local food was much stronger than my veganism, and so I tried everything that came across my path. Like, everything! It was so exciting! This was so different from Mexican food! And so good!
Our very first night we had anticuchos, or beef-heart skewers, and sopa criolla, made with tomato, beef, egg, cream, angel hair pasta... wow.
For breakfast, at our hotel (a not-for-profit that gives meals, education and other things to poor children) we'd have yoghourt with sprouted quinoa, apple and coconut, along with mate de coca (tea made from coca leaves – about as strong as a cup of coffee, so worry not).
At the city's central market we marvelled at the diversity of corn, and we also bought cheese and bread to snack on while walking around.
At a local fair we saw – but didn't dare try – cuy (guinea pig), but I did have chicha morada (a drink made from purple corn), although it was way too sweet for me.
At the part of town known as San Blas we tried rocoto relleno (some kind of peppers filled with cheese – hot!) and one of the local beers – Cusqueña negra, a malty Schwarzbier that we kept ordering from that day on!
Of course, coca leaves were made into everything in Cusco, and we couldn't help buy some coca soft candy! And they were good!
At a hipster-ish bar inside an old building? Many local beers on tap! Including porters, stouts, and a quinoa beer!
Almost any café could offer mate de coca. And this one here also had a pastry called lengua de suegra (mother-in-law tongue) filled with dulce de leche (burnt milk). Yum.
At a restaurant specializing in northern Peruvian cuisine we had seco de cordero, with lamb prepared in a fermented corn drink, and ají de gallina, a chicken stew with yellow peppers, milk, bread...
All of this was at quite ordinary places. But we also tried a slightly fancier one, where we had one of many dishes that originated with the Chinese of Peru: chaufa, which would basically be fried rice, but with quinoa instead of rice! And oh just so good!
Finally – and I really think this more or less covers three days of eating – we went to this extremely basic eatery that only served either chicken soup or caldo de gallina (hen soup). We went for the caldo de gallina, almost twice as expensive as plain ole' chicken soup. We got corn kernels to snack on (please look at all the colours and patterns!) and then the soup. Now, the soup tasted great! Really good! But hen is one tough meat to chew, and I'm afraid we had to leave most of the meat on the plate, 'cause we just couldn't manage. I guess you trade taste for ease of chewing?
Really, Cusco was one unbelievable culinary experience. Loved it!