Hello again! After a dessert filled trip to Europe, I had the pleasure of endless cardio on a manually powered treadmill, aerodyn bike of happiness (which is all but happy), and several round of kettle bell exercises. I actually don’t mind all but one of those exercises, especially beefcake days, but, come August, I was itching to get away. Thankfully, my best friend from Duke (DBF) and I had planned out a trip to see Machu Picchu. And, in the middle of our trekking (mis)adventures, we were able to taste several Peruvian dishes. Throughout this post, our mutual friend, Joey Tribbiani, will help introduce our carnivorous expedition. First, I should start by saying:
I’m not even going to discuss Fitbit and the activity in Peru until the next post. This one is all about the other favorite food group of mine — the one, without which, I’d grow easily irritable, extremely fidgety, and exponentially impatient with every waking minute. Yes people, hangry is both an emotional and physical state. And for me, nothing cures it better than a big ol’ slab of meat, or fish, or crustacean, or…you get the picture. Unfortunately, statistical analysis and data reconfiguration only allowed me one week in Peru, while DBF was able to spend two weeks in that marvelous country. She was able to experience more delicious cuisines in Lima and, who knows, maybe one day she’ll write a blog and everyone can see it.
We had a very achievable goal in Cusco — to eat everything. While the Vienna trip was gelatos with meals padded between desserts, Peru was a bit of the opposite. We tackled air, land, and sea, which are subsets of food groups in my little universe:
Before I go any further, I have to state the following PSA: Please, do not try this at home, we are experienced professionals in terms of stuffing our faces and had every intent of burning the amount of calories consumed (maybe). Also not suitable for vegetarians, vegans, or people who don’t eat anything with a shadow.
Sea: I “Sea” food and I Eat It
¡Bienvenidos a Perú! The moment we arrived, both of us had flew redeyes, and were starving. In my case, I had barely slept due to watching several movies on my 8 hour flight from NYC, including 2.5 hours well spent bawling at Furious 7. Yes, I cry during car movies, and no, I’m not ashamed. I will forever have a soft spot for Skylines and Supras.
Back to Peru. So, what do two hungry girls do when they arrive in a foreign country? First they drop off their luggage. Then, they eat.
Since it borders the Pacific, Peru had a vast amount of seafood to offer us and we gladly took it. It helped also that I’m constantly hungry and DBF and I wanted to try to eat as many different dishes as possible. Our first stop was near the central plaza of Cusco, a restaurant called Cicciolina. Maybe we went a bit nuts, but it was completely worth it:
Day 1 resulted in us eating prawns, scallops, octopus, and salmon. While we’d eat trout on the trek, and ceviche and fried squid on my last day at Uchu, the bulk of the seafood dishes were consumed here. We started with the grilled octopus, which was a nice way to warm up your stomach muscles. That was followed up by the scallops. Besides being massive, the scallops were juicy and hit the sweet spot of filing your empty stomach. Not to be outdone, the prawns were prepared with a unique twist: fried with quinoa. All I was thinking was, “Quinoa? More protein, yay! ” With our stomachs full from lunch, we were then ready to venture off and explore the city.
As we progressed through our trip, our days would be filled with more poultry and red meat dishes, which I was more than happy with. However, anyone visiting Peru must find a proper sit down place to taste their seafood selection at least once (if not more).
Air – Intelligent, Beautiful Creatures?
I know, I know, chickens don’t fly. But remember, “Air” is stuff with wings, and chickens have wings. (Unlike buffalos, sorry Jessica Simpson, and while we’re at it, there will be no discussion of chicken of the sea here). Chicken came in many forms: as an appetizer, as a main course, and as one third of a barbecue meat combo. And though Joey describes turkeys here, I think the same applies to their cousin, the chicken.
Kusikuy, in Cusco, was one of our must-eat places, for their guinea pig (which I’ll tackle in the “Land” section). But one cannot simply just order one dish when the menu had a plethora of offerings from lamb to cow hearts to alpaca meat. Somewhere in between was the Aji de Gallena, pictured in the lower left. It looks like yellow mush from afar, but I assure you, the taste is far from that. While picking around the cheese (No Thanks category), I was able to taste the slight spicy flavor from the aji peppers, and the juicy, tender strips of pulled chicken meat. The sauce is similar to a spicy curry sauce and the block of rice was there to help you mop up the meat/gravy-like mix. We didn’t really need it, hah.
Still in Cusco, in the upper left corner, the strips of chicken over mashed potato were served as an appetizer at Marcela Batata. The story was simple behind this order: when beef, pork, and alpaca had already been selected, you must diversify and order chicken for an appetizer. Finally, the upper right is the duck spring rolls that we had at Museo del Pisco. We went there to drink, which I was embarrassingly bad at. And, when a girl gets hungry from alcohol, she wants meat. DBF and I ordered them to come with our drinks, they came a bit later but still tasty. To be honest, I forgot what the sauce on the left was, but the sauce on the right was a spicy pepper blend, which helped add flavor to the rolls.
The two other photos are from a small town closer to Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo. DBF and I, being “cultured” individuals with a college degrees, decided to not butcher the name and affectionately call it, “Olly.” In Olly, we had reservations at a restaurant/hotel called El Albergue. This was a farm to table restaurant where they grew their own vegetables, herbs, fruits, and (live) meats. The cooking process involved using the ground as a convection oven. Rocks were heated to high temperatures before placed marinated meats and veggies into the makeshift “oven.” Our meal cooked as we took a tour of the farm, nothing like this scenic backdrop for an outdoor barbecue:
The guide would ask if anyone wanted seconds, and of course I didn’t hesitate. I was disappointed though, when he didn’t ask if anyone wanted thirds 😦
Land: It’s Moo (For the Cow)
Saving the best for last. I grew up with pork dumplings, beef short ribs, lamb chops, and the list goes on. There’s something about the texture and slight gamy taste of the “land” category that doesn’t make you regret and impending food coma or meat sweats. And boy did DBF and I go to town in Cusco.
Let’s revisit Kusikuy. We learned quite a bit about lifestyles of the locals during our trip. In Peru, they raise guinea pigs in their own homes, not as a pet, but for special occasions. For family reunions, close friends, or other special visitors, the household would have the guinea pig as one of the main courses in the meal. And, naturally, curiosity got the better of us and we just had to try. The meat was slow cooked (took the better part of an hour), the skin was thin and crispy (Peking duck-like), and the taste, though gamier than regular pork, was still juicy and savory. When paired with one of the spicy salsas, it was a perfect ending to a day full of struggles up and down hills. The meat slipped right off the bones, noms. The guinea pig was served with a tamale and a stuffed pepper, stuffed with none other than beef, mooo. Along with that order came the alpaca skewers, which were surprisingly tough to chew through, but it was still savory, with a nice peppery blend. The guinea pig, though, topped the evening for me. Needless to say, considering that we had that meal our first night in Cusco, the struggle to get up the steps to our hostel was real.
Also in Cusco was Pachapappa, where we had perhaps the best beef dish on our trip. The oxtail (top left) was served with a red wing sauce, and the meat was cooked so tender that you could suck it right off the bones. Pork adobo was succulent and though every dish came with potatoes (there’s several thousand kinds in Peru), the meat was clearly the star of our meals. To round out our carnivorous adventure, we had more alpaca in Olly: in the form of burger and as an entrée at Albergue. Finally, we ate delicious lamb at Uchu Steakhouse, and a second round of pork adobo at Uchu’s sister restaurant Marcela Battata. Special shout out to Uchu, where the lamb didn’t have the traditional gamy taste that one gets. Rather, the meat was easy to chew and had the texture of a medium rare steak.
I also bought a stick of meat off the street, cow hearts, ladies and gentlemen. Why? Because it was there and I was hungry.
Let me reiterate, meat, goood. I was secretly thanking my workouts for creating an insatiable appetite that was perfect for this trip. For those keeping count, that’s: beef, pork, lamb, alpaca, guinea pig, we diversified for sure.
Paying homage to my trip in Europe, we still satisfied our sugar/dessert craving by hitting up one of the many café/ice cream parlors in the area. And while the focus wasn’t fully on dessert this time around, we still managed to pastry hop between the meat excursions with success, including spontaneous pit stops while walking between shopping runs. If this was a movie, I’d run a quick montage of the glorious dessert-fest DBF and I had. Since this isn’t, a simple collage will have to do:
Sea: Octopus, prawns, salmon, trout, scallops, squid, ceviche
Air: Chicken, Duck
Land: Beef (oxtail, steak, cow hearts), guinea pig, lamb, pork, alpaca
It’s almost as many scoops of ice cream I had in Vienna! We needed fuel for our trek in the Lares region of the Andes and when faced with the challenge of climbing the equivalent of several hundred floors a day, a solid source of protein is not only a nice to have, but a necessity.