Many people visit the city of Cusco on their way to Machu Picchu, but Cusco is reknowned for its culinary charms such as roastedguinea pig, skewered beef hearts and corn beer called chicha!. To really get a taste of authentic Peruvian food especially from the Andean region and to immerse yourself and your palate in the local customs and way of life, is to sample the street food in the city. Traditional snacks can be found on virtually every corner and are a cheap and authentic, usually natural and delicious way to eat out in the Inca capital.
A trip to Cusco is not complete without a visit to the San Pedro Market. This market offers excellent insight and an authentic view of life in Cusco and the Andean region in general. Locals shop at this market every day in order to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, beans and grains, flowers, handicrafts and groceries. This indoor market literally sells everything from alpaca meat, to fresh fruit juices, to wicker baskets, to motions and potions that cure all ailments. There is also a useful row of tailors who can mend clothes, patch holey jeans and fix broken backpacks …. This market is a traveller’s best friend!
A local favourite when it comes to street food in Cusco are roast pork sandwiches. These are perfect for a filling lunch, or even a snack if you’re feeling peckish on a cold Andean night. Served on toasted bread with roast pork that is carved right in front of you and comes with salsa, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise.
One of the main Cusco street foods especially in the Sacred Valley is choclo con queso. A fresh ear of boiled corn on the cob with cheese. This corn on the cob is particular to the Andean region and has bigger kernels and is less sweet than the yellow version we are used to. Keep your eye out for ladies selling these delicious delights on small street stands or out of a basket especially around the San Pedro Market.
Anticuchos, or skewered meat kebabs, that originate from Peru, yet are found in many South American countries. The snack can be made out of any kind of meat, but mostly from beef hearts, served with a boiled potato on the end of the skewer. Try the spicy green sauce they usually serve on the side for an extra kick!
Tamales are another popular street food in Cusco. These tamales are made from boiled corn, which is mashed into a paste wrapped in the corn leaves and boiled. Usually street sellers offer sweet or salty, depending on your mood. Some of the most popular fillings are chicken or pork with olives, and the sweet tamales sometimes contain raisins. Tamales are one of the bargain street foods available and often eaten for breakfast.
Salchipapas is so called due to its major ingredients of sausages (salchichas) and fried potatoes (papas). This popular Cusco street food was once a working-class meal but due to its popularity, now appears on menus even in the most gourmet of restaurants. Served with mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard, this dish is not only found in Peru but all across South America, including Ecuador, Colombia, and Bolivia.
“Chicha de Jora” is the locally prepared beverage in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. You can spot a house who is selling freshly made chicha, by the long post with a red bag tied to it. This traditional Inca beer is still brewed using traditional methods and who´s main ingredient is fermented corn, is a main part of life in the Cusco region to this day.
We cannot forget the desserts of Peru and picarones are probably the most delicious and traditional sweet dish. The batter is made from sweet potato and deep-fried and served with honey or syrup and similar to a doughnut, perfect on a cold night anywhere in Peru with a hot chocolate!