I just returned from a few days in Lima, Cuzco, & Ollantaytambo (January 2009).
I loved loved loved the food in Peru.
NOT from the tourist recommended restaurants, which tended to be watered down bland and kind of expensive. (Although one exception in Ollantaytambo, the dinner at my hotel the El Albergue was excellent).
I can understand why tourists would prefer to eat at these kinds of places, thinking there might be less chance of getting sick. After a few disappointments, I tossed out the guidebook recommendations and picked restaurants the way I do at home in Los Angeles, ..looks clean, smells clean and is full of locals, go for it! (The only thing I did was to avoid lettuce leaves and unpeeled raw fruits or vegetables, and of course the water).
Favorite things, in no particular order
Alpaca. Alpaca loin cooked medium rare at the El Albergue hotel restaurant. 29 soles with three sides including the green herb Huacatay and a sauce made of sauco berries (Peruvian elderberry, I had a few raw ones in Ollantaytambo also).
Choclo...the boiled corn with giant kernels from the vendors near the Ollantaytambo train station...2 Soles to Gringos. Hold the cheese.
Cancha..the toasted corn kernels, served before the meal at cebicherias.
Coca Tea. Tastes like green tea. Better than I expected. Nice also mixed with lemon grass tea. Nice side effect..appetite suppressant. But don't have more than two at night or you won'l sleep, and don't drink coffee in the morning.
Helados/Gelato from local fruits...Sauco, Chirimoya, Lucuma, Tamarindo. The Gelateria "4d" in the Lima Airport was the best I found. They seem to be open 24 hours.
Ceviche (Cebiche) in Lima! I was wandering around lost (in the vicinity of the Repsol station at Arenals and Rep. de Chile, and ate at a place called something like Rey del Mar which I think was on Rep. de Chile. For no more than $5 or $6 US, a delicious cebiche mixto with choclo kernels, some kind of yam or yuca, seaweed, the Peruvian scallops, a few whole shrimp, and white fish ( I don't think any octopus or squid), PLUS, a second course of fish soup, AND an Inka Cola.
Chicken. Grilled chicken, fries and a salad bar. Everywhere.
Hayden Mangos. Like the ones I grew up eating.
Limonada. Made with the Peruvian Key Limes
Inka Kola...and I don't normally drink soft drinks.
Pepino Melons from the Pisac Market. $3 a Kilo. In the US, they're $3 a Melon for a little one.
Didn't like...the food I had at Pucara, Cuzco. (Criollo Soup and Lomo Saltado) bland and overpriced. Tourist restaurant.
The green tamales I had at Tanta. Odd tasting, the ones that were on sample for free at a Metro supermarket were much better (and Soles 2.50 each, not 17 Soles for two). Tourist restaurant.
Coffee. Usually instant.
The plain chicha (tastes like cider, which I don't really like). Just my personal taste. The strawberry one was okay.
I keep thinking about that ceviche...and I know where a Peruvian restaurant in Los Angeles is..right next to my credit union in Gardena!
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