It’s tradition in Lima to start the morning (or night) off with piping hot cups of herb-infused drinks that are boiled with grains like quinoa or boosted by maca, a revitalizing root from the high Andes of Peru. Find the carts set up at bustling intersections from the break of dawn until stock runs out, and back again when the sun sets. Don’t forget to ask for the yapa, the leftover pour that couldn’t fit in the first serving. Top spots include Grau at 28 de Julio in Barranco, Brasil at Grau in Magdalena del Mar, or Emancipacion at de la Union in central Lima.
You say potato, I say papa rellena
When life gives you 4000 varieties of potatoes, get creative. The papa rellena is Peru’s equivalent to a twice-baked potato. Completely enclosed and thus easy to eat on the go, mashed potato is stuffed with seasoned ground beef, onions, olives and egg before being fried to golden perfection. You’ll find plenty of options within the first three blocks of Av Petit Thouars, near central Lima, where students of nearby universities scramble to get the best and tastiest deal. Top it off with ketchup or Peru’s ever-present spicy chili sauce, aji.
Stick to the basics
Chocolate-covered pretzels aren’t the only salty-sweet combo: choclo con queso (corn with cheese) is a popular standby meal and proof that something must be in the water to make Peruvian food taste this good. In the case of Peru’s giant-kernel corn, that ‘something’ is anise. The small, aromatic seed gives the boiled corn a hint of sweetness that, when paired with a thick slab of queso Andino (a typical salty cheese in Peru), bursts into big flavor. Carts neighbor Lima’s Museum of Art during lunch hours, but at night, find the tastiest on Angamos at Jr Dante in Surquillo.
Although pollerias (roast chicken restaurants) appear to be on every corner in Lima, huevos de codorniz (quail eggs) rule the roost when it comes to street food. Vendors with small push carts first hard boil the eggs then, if you prefer, peel the spotted shells to reveal the creamy insides which are then generously sprinkled with salt. Nearly half a dozen of these small eggs can be purchased for one sol, and are found outside of shopping center Polvos Azules in central Lima or any district market.
To do or donut?
In Peru, such hole-y goodness as the donut and other fried pastries are upped a level by incorporating native starchy vegetables. Picarones opt for sweet potato and squash, hence their orange hue. Rings of this naturally sweet batter are lightly fried before being bathed in a generous pour of Peruvian honey. Their pastry cousins, yuquitas, use flour from the yucca root to become a warm, air-puffed treat. Get the best bang for your buck (or sol) at Mercado Palermo in La Victoria for yuquitas, and Parque Kennedy in Miraflores for picarones.