Well-known as the gastronomy capital of Peru (and quickly becoming that of South America), Lima has a wealth of delectable dishes to offer any visitor- it’s hard to know where to even begin. From bright and innovative seafood servings to homestyle, slow-cooked meats to Asian-influenced wok dishes, Lima has a little something for everyone (actually, a lot something- you can count on massive portions everywhere!). Here are the dishes you can’t miss- make sure to allow enough time in Lima to try them all!
The most famous dish in the country, the national plate of ceviche is a must-try. Raw white fish is sliced and tossed in fresh lime juice flavored with garlic, chili, salt and thinly sliced onions. The fish is delicately cooked by the lime and salt, and made and served fresh to order. This dish can be found anywhere, from carts on the streets selling it for $1 to the chicest of restaurants with wait lists for months. The classic is simple, but you can also experiment with mixtures of other seafood such as squid, octopus, scallops and shrimp, various flavors of sauces, and a million different additional ingredients.
2- Arroz con Mariscos
The perfect complement to ceviche, this dish is the Peruvian version of paella (with more flavor!). Mariscos (shellfish and other seafoods) are mixed with spices and sauces in rice and served up hot and fresh. The spices used make the perfect flavoring that makes you promise every bite is your last.
3- Leche de Tigre
Another take on ceviche, this version is almost the same, but adds milk to the juice that the fish is served in. May sound strange, but it ends up being most people’s favorite dish! Some places serve it as an appetizer, some as a main dish. Feeling adventurous? Try leche de pantera, which substitutes black shells (a strong, clam-like shellfish from the North) for the white fish.
4- Aji de gallina
This classic homestyle dish is creamy, cozy and as Peruvian as it gets. Shredded chicken is baked in a sauce of blended walnuts, peppers and cheese, and often comes with a side of potatoes and a hard-boiled egg. This is always the crowd pleaser, and a dish you can’t find anywhere else.
Grilled cow hearts, anyone? It may sound wild, but if nobody told you what it was you’d think you’d eaten a really delicious beef skewer. Anticuchos, often sold by streets vendors or made at barbecues, are thinly-sliced and expertly marinated cow hearts on skewers. Grilled to perfection, you can say you tried something “adventurous” without the adventurous taste.
6- Papas a la huancaina
Huancaina is a classic sauce made of mild peppers and cheese that peruvians can’t get enough of. This simple starter dish is sliced potatoes swimming in this decadent sauce, and can be found in basically every Peruvian restaurant.
7- Causa rellena
Another you-can’t-leave-Lima-without-trying-it, causa is a pretty unique one. Mashed potatoes are mixed with lime, salt and chili pepper, then formed into a little layered cake. In between each layer of the potatoes, you’ll find one of several ingredients: avocado, shredded chicken, tomato, mayonnaise, hard-boiled egg. And the whole thing is drizzled with one of many amazing creamy chili sauces.
Literally meaning “smash-smash” in Quechua, this dish was originally made with leftover beans and rice from the day before. It’s “reheated” in a new rich sauce, with forms a crunchy crust around the mass of rice and beans. You can order it will all kinds of seafood (and sometimes meat), and a variety of sauces on top. We like tacu-tacu de mariscos, which comes with a creamy seafood sauce full of different shellfish poured on top.
9- Pollo a la brasa
The go-to fast food for locals, the art of rotisserie chicken has been perfected by Peru’s polla a la brasa. But, just because it’s everywhere and most of the restaurants look like a caricature of a food establishment, don’t give up on it! Stop in to the spot nearest you, order a quarter chicken (usually the smallest serving), and ask for every sauce they have. You’ll see what all the bus is about.
10- Lomo Saltado
Many would say this is the other national dish of Peru. The wok-fried plate of thinly-sliced beef, onions and peppers sauteed with a mixture of oyster sauce, ginger and soy sauce is the go-to quick and hearty dish that every Peruvian and foreigner loves. You can find it in fast-food or high-end form just about anywhere in the city.