Picarones - © perudelights.com

Street Food Discoveries: Peruvian Institutions

Peru, along with Chile, is one of two major South American countries that occupy long strips of Pacific Ocean coastline and, yet, boast mountainous backbones. Peru’s street foods are as diverse as its terrains, and their cultural influences reflect a host of foreign occupations and migrations…

Peru Butifarras - © perudelights.comPeruvian Butifarras: The national ham sandwich. A hearty bite by anyone’s standards!

Peru has absorbed a wide variety of food cultures, keeping the best of each of them. The Spanish influence is dominant, of course, but ancient Incan influences still show through, as do those of immigrants from Germany, Italy, Japan, China and even Africa.

Staple native foods include corn (maize), potatoes and other root veggies, quinoa and kiwicha, chili peppers, and beans and other legumes. The Spanish brought rice, wheat, beef, pork and chicken.

Naturally, you’ll find a load of familiar Spanish street foods on the Peruvian menu: Empanadas, tamales, arroz con leche (rice pudding), ceviche, roasted, seasoned corn, and many more. We’ll skip over those and go right to the native Peruvian classics.

There are two ‘shifts’ on the Peruvian street food clock: day and night. And different vendors come out to sell different sacks depending on the time of day. And it’s not really fair or accurate to call the country’s street foods ‘snacks’, considering how large a part of some folks’ diets they represent…

On our menu today

Butifarra: A ubiquitous ham sandwich everybody loves. It features Spanish-style ham called Jamon del Pais on a special rosetta bun (an Italian import), topped with lettuce, radishes, fresh chilies and a traditional onion relish called salsa criolla.

Anticuchos: Meat skewers with a difference. Chunks of cow heart are stacked on a wooden skewer, then and grilled over a charcoal fire…

Artichuchos - © perudelights.com

…basting frequently with a sauce made of vinegar, a spicy pepper mixture, and cumin. Eat them right off the stick. They have their own National Day of celebration!

Rachi: Strips of cow belly, spiced with a mixture of garlic, salt and pepper, and grilled on a flat-top. It’s traditionally served with Peruvian corn on the side. You’ll find it on most grill carts along with Antichuchos and other grilled specialties.

Papas Rellenos: Potato-shaped dumplings made of mashed potatoes stuffed with a mixture of ground meat, chopped egg, olives, and raisins, and deep fried.

Papas Rellenos - © thekitchenprepblog.com

Also referred to simply as ‘stuffed potatoes’. Another natural grab-and-go hand-food dish. Everybody loves ’em

Salchipapas: A plate of French Fries topped with rounds of sausage or hot dog, and drizzled with hot sauce, ketchup or mayo.

Mazamorra Morada: A pretty purple pudding made from purple Peruvian corn, fresh and dried fruits simmered together until they meld into a delicious dark fluid that is them thickened with potato flour or corn starch.

mazamorra morada - © amigofoods.com

Served with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a squeeze of lime, it’s a national treasure. It’s a little prep-intensive and time consuming, but fans say it’s worth all the fuss.

Chicha Morada: A beverage based on the juice of purple Peruvian corn, spiced with cinnamon, cloves, apple, and lime. Served cold cold, it’s a great refresher! And it’s non-alcoholic

Picarones: Peruvian doughnuts. Large rings with a big hole in the middle, made from a unique blend of squash ans sweet potato. They’re usually served on a little paper plate smothered in thick, brown cane syrup (see picture, top of page). A great dessert to follow any of the aforementioned street foods!

The chosen few…

That’s our choice of the top native Peruvian street foods you must try if you ever get there for real. There are many more foods to be fo9und on that carts and stalls that line the food streets of major Peruvian towns and cities. You really should try making some of our choice dishes yourself! Like most street foods, they’re easy to make and require relatively few ingredients. The recipes can all be Googled, and you’ll usually find a selection to chose from, reflecting the tastes of the cooks who created them.

~ Maggie J.