Let’s be honest – the reason why you are in Cusco is because you wanted to trek Machu Picchu, and we can’t blame you for that – after all, it is one of the most famous historic attractions in the world. However, you can also use the opportunity to try some of the most outlandish food, most of which you are unlikely to encounter anywhere else in the world. If you are already finding yourself watering at the mouth while reading this, here are some of the treats that might entice your palate during your stay in the Incan capital.
We have to get the most obvious thing out of the way first, since this curious delicacy is a staple of Peruvian cuisine: fired or roasted guinea pig. Even though a dish that involves cooking an entire rodent together with its teeth and ears might sound incredibly bizarre to foreign travelers, eating cuy is a part of the everyday reality for the local populace. If you and your taste buds are feeling adventurous enough to give it a go, you can find cuy in many restaurants in Cusco – your best bet would be going into one of the family-owned eateries where you will be treated to an authentic rendition of this classic Andean treat.
The smaller and crankier cousin to the llama, alpacas can be seen everywhere in Cusco. Since they don’t serve much use as pack animals, local people mostly breed them for their fiber and meat. This is why Cusco is one of the ideal places to feast on this unusual source of protein: if you would like to keep it unpretentious, opt for a tasty alpaca burger with a side of solterito; those looking for a more gourmet experience can try the alpaca steak in one of Cusco’s high-end restaurants.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the choice offered on local menus or want to try everything but simply don’t have the time, fret not – chiriuchu is here to save you. This festive dish, which is usually prepared for the Corpus Christi celebrations, is a palette featuring the greatest hits of Peruvian cuisine. On the massive plate, you will find the already mentioned cuy, torrejas (corn cakes), Peruvian corn, chicken, cheese, seaweed, fish eggs and chorizo. Did someone say party in your mouth?
Caldo de Gallina
If you aren’t feeling particularly bold or simply need a hearty dish after a day of trekking, hit up one of the restaurants near San Pedro market and boost your energy with a hot bowl of caldo de gallina, a Cusco take on chicken soup. You will see people lining up to get a serving of this delicious goodness as early as the morning hours. Get your fill of caldo de gallina and we guarantee you will be able to take on any adventure that comes your way.
This sweet non-alcoholic drink characteristic for its deep-purple hue is believed to predate even the Incas. It is made by boiling purple corn (native to this region) together with pineapple, after which the liquid is infused with various spices, usually cinnamon and cloves. It is served cold, making it especially refreshing on scorching hot days to which Cusco is no stranger.
A brandy-like spirit not unlike Italian grappa, Pisco is so popular in Peru, its has its own national holiday. Lucky for you, in Cusco you can try a wide variety of piscos, and the experienced bartenders in local pubs will be happy to whip up something special for you. If you want to go the safe route, order pisco sour, by far the most loved alcoholic cocktail in the country.