If you’re looking for the true Peruvian experience, lunch is the most important meal of the day.
In Peru, almuerzo is the main meal of the day, usually starting between noon and 1pm. At that time, many shops and businesses will close up for a couple hours and most people will either go home to enjoy lunch as a family, or head to their favorite cevichería or restaurant. In addition, lunch can often be a lengthy process and usually involves a starter, main course and sometimes a dessert.
In Peru, there are plenty of options for everyone, and lunchtime is the perfect opportunity to indulge in typical Peruvian cuisine. When in Peru, try eating like the locals and enjoy lunch at one of the following types of eateries.
While ceviche is often recognized as the national dish of Peru, this dish is usually only consumed for lunch. That is because ceviche restaurants receive the fish from local fisherman early in the morning so that the ceviche is as fresh as possible come lunchtime. If a restaurant, apart from Lima’s many famous dining establishments, is serving ceviche past lunchtime, chances are it isn’t very fresh. Moreover, because ceviche and other seafood dishes are considered lunch in Peru, you’ll find that many seafood restaurants are closed for dinner.
If you’re looking for a hearty and affordable meal, a Peruvian favorite is Chifa. Chinese-Peruvian restaurants, called chifas, are common throughout Peru, offering inexpensive but well-prepared food. When Chinese immigrants to Peru brought unique ingredients like ginger, soy sauce and scallions, it helped to revolutionize Peruvian gastronomy. However, they also had to work with the native ingredients and therefore adopted many exciting Peruvian flavors – including potatoes, pineapple and ají peppers. The end result was that chifa uses many traditional Peruvian ingredients but is prepared in a way that is similar to traditional Chinese methods.
Chifa is delicious, and a trip to a chifa restaurant will usually involve heaping plates of rice or tallarín mixed with vegetables and chicken or a different type of meat. If you visit a chifa restaurant, consider ordering the arroz chaufa (fried rice), tallarín saltado (stir-fried noodles) or aeropuerto (a mixture of both).
In Peru, many people eat lunch at small, side-street restaurants that serve a set menú lunch. The meal will usually consist of a starter, main course, drink and sometimes a small dessert. These menús are very affordable, with most not costing more than five US dollars (approximately 16 soles). In terms of value, it’s a hard bargain to beat. However, while the food can often be surprisingly good, it can sometimes be disappointing. Local Peruvians always know the best places to eat, so if you want to try a menú lunch, be sure to pick an establishment that is serving lots of happy clients, and treat numerous empty tables as a warning sign.
The food served at a menú joint will vary from restaurant to restaurant, with some restaurants only giving clients one option per course, while other restaurants may have three or five options. For starters, it is common to be served a soup, simple salad, causa rellena, papa a la huancaina or small ceviche. Typical main courses may include lomo saltado, milanesa, ají de gallina or churrasco de res.
If you’re traveling to Peru, you probably know that it is the gastronomic capital of South America. For that reason, you’re probably looking to indulge and eat out as much as possible. With so many outstanding upscale options in Lima and other parts of the county, it’s hard to go wrong when choosing a place to eat. But if you’re looking for a truly authentic Peruvian experience, sitting down at a cevichería, chifa restaurant or menu joint and ordering a traditional plate for lunch is definitely the way to go.