Karencita de Perú

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

This is a continuation of my recent post https://karencitadeperu.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/the-life-of-the-rich-and-not-famous/.   The first part explained why I had the good fortune to live the “life of the rich” for a weekend and focused on the Miraflores Park Hotel.  However, also included in my prize from Groupon were 2 dinners and a lunch in some of Lima’s finest restaurants.

The first night we went to La Rosa Nautica.   This restaurant is consistently ranked among the top choices for fine dining in Lima and I have wanted to go there since my first visit to Peru.  I have heard many differing opinions about the place from people who have been there, but I wanted to form my own opinion.

The evening started with getting picked up at the hotel and being driven to the restaurant, along with our personal photographer.  Before we even entered the restaurant there were a ton of great photo opportunities.  The location and architecture of La Rosa Nautica is one of the most charming things about it.  It is a Victorian-style building located at the end of a pier above the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.   To get to the entrance of the restaurant you walk along a lovely pier, which is adorned with gazebos and shops.

When we arrived at the restaurant, to my surprise, we were ushered to a private room, with a single table just for us!  The room was nicely decorated with windows that open to the ocean below.  We had two waiters just to serve us.  If we even looked in their direction they asked us if there was something we needed.  Needless to say, the service was outstanding; however, my experience doesn’t really allow me to judge the service under normal circumstance, when we aren’t being treated like “VIPs”.

Of course, the most important thing about a restaurant is the food.   To start, we had a seafood platter that included parmesan scallops and ceviche – two of my favorite seafood dishes in Peru.  It was delicious.  For the main course, I had chicken in an ‘agridulce salsa de sauco‘ (sweet & sour elderberry sauce) served with puré (mashed potatoes).  Luis had a white fish (can’t remember the name) served with roasted baby potatoes and vegetables.  For dessert we tried the creme bruleé and lucuma-mousse filled crepe with chocolate sauce.  The food was nicely presented and pleasing, although I have to honestly say it was not the best meal I have had in my life.

What made La Rosa Nautica special for me was the ambiance and the service and that alone is enough to go back for.

The next day, after our private half-day city tour, we were taken to Brujas de Cachiche for lunch.  This was my second visit to this restaurant.  The restaurant is located in Miraflores on the Ovalo Bolognesi in an interesting, old wooden building.  What’s interesting about the architecture of the building is that it has a peaked roof, something that is very rare in Lima, where the majority of roof-tops are flat.  We didn’t have a private room this time and were seated in the main dining area, which is glassed-in patio that has been added to the main structure.  It is bright and airy, with an elegant yet casual feel.  Apart from the main dining area where we ate, there are other rooms for private parties and the AQUELARRE Bar.  Attached to Brujas de Cachiche is the popular Bar Huaringas.

The service in Brujas de Cachiche is very good, but it couldn’t compare to our personalized service the night before.   However, where Brujas stands out is in its food.  The menu is vast and offers an abundance of typical dishes from all regions of Peru.   I started with Tuna Causa and Luis had Anticuchos.  For the main course, I had one of my favorite Peruvian dishes, Ají de Gallina.  However, my favorite part of the meal was the dessert… Suspiro a la Limeña.   This is a traditional Peruvian dessert which is basically a base of manjar blanco (otherwise known as dulce de leche) topped with meringue.    Warning:  this dessert is extremely sweet and rich, so it may not be to ‘ taste, but I love it!!

Our last meal was a dinner show at Junius in the Double Tree Hotel in Miraflores.  The dinner consisted of a buffet of typical Peruvian dishes.   The food was good and there was a nice selection of cold dishes, hot dishes and desserts.  However, the real reason to go to Junius is for the live folklore dance show.  The show begins at 8pm, and features traditional dances from all regions of Peru, the Coast, the Sierra and the Selva.  The costumes are colorful, the music is excellent and the dancing is fantastic.  The show demonstrates the profound depth of Peruvian culture with its Incan, Spanish and African influences.

For me, the outstanding performance of the night was the Scissor Dance.    This dance comes from the South Andes region of Peru.  It features male dancers who hold two loose scissor shears in their hands which clash together in a hypnotic rhythm while they are dancing.  The dancers, accompanied by melodies of violin and harp, dance in turns in a sort of competition.  When it is the turn of the dancer, he tries to outdo the steps of the previous dancer.  As the dance progresses, the difficulty increases with each “round” as the dancers display their strength, acrobatics, flexibility and imagination.   It is definitely something that all visitors to Peru should see.


Yesterday I decided to treat myself to an early birthday gift.  I spent a relaxing afternoon getting a manicure followed by a trip to Starbucks.  What’s interesting about this is the relative cost of these two items here in Peru.


A basic manicure  in Lima costs S/.8 or S/.9, which is about $3.25.  For this price you can get a solid color or a french manicure.  If you want something a little fancier, like drawings or designs, it is an additional S/.5 to S/.10 soles ($2 to 4).  I once had a manicure at a hair salon that cost me S/.20; however, it did  included a special moisturizing treatment for my hands which was quite nice.

The place where I went for my manicure is called Toque-X.   The first time I went there was for my wedding manicure a few weeks ago.  This place specializes in manicures and pedicures.  There are two floors with long tables packed with girls dressed in fuchsia & black giving manicures to their clients.  Both times I have been there the place has been packed.   The basic manicure uses Color Club nail polish.  If you want OPI it is an extra S/.5.  I personally don’t see the benefit of paying the extra as Color Club has a good selection of colors and seems to last just as long as OPI.

The manicure at Toque-X is quite thorough.  You can choose to have your nailed filed redondeadas (rounded) or cuadradas (squared).   After filing and shaping your nails, they clean up your cuticles  and give a quick, but relaxing hand massage.  The manicure includes a base coat, two coats of polish and a top coat.  After that you head of to the maquinita (little machine) to dry your nails for 3 minutes with air and UV light.

A basic manicure in Vancouver costs about $25, a lot more than the $3 you pay in Lima!  At that price, how can I not afford to go every few weeks.


After the manicure, with my nails still slightly tacky, I headed over to Starbucks.  I had planned ahead, taking S/.10 out of my purse and putting it in my pocket so I wouldn’t ruin my nails when I had to pay at Starbucks.  I normally order a vanilla latte which is S/.8 ($2.90) for a tall and S/.10 ($3.60) for a grande – not that different from the prices in Canada.

As I entered the Starbucks, I noticed that they had holiday flavors.  Holiday beverages are different in Lima.  There are no peppermint, gingerbread or eggnog lattes.  (Actually, there is no eggnog here at all).  The holiday flavors are Chocolate, Toffee & Caramel, Dark Cherry Mocha and Toffee Nut.  Well, how could I not try the Chocolate, Toffee & Caramel latte?  I had my S/.10 ready and ordered a tall as I thought the special flavor would probably be a bit more than the S/.8 cost of a vanilla latte.  When the guy told me it would be S/.11.50 I was shocked!  How could it cost S/.3.5 more just for a holiday flavor??  “¡Qué locura!” I said as I gingerly tried to extract my wallet from my pocket and get more money out without ruining my freshly manicured nails.  The cashier noticed my strange maneuvering and said “Oh, you just had your nails done!”.  Well, he actually said it in Spanish but that is the rough translation.  Anyway, I paid the S/.11.50 ($4.20) for my tall chocolate, toffee & caramel latte and thought to myself “this better be worth it!”.

I have to admit it was quite tasty, but as I sat there in the Starbucks I couldn’t help marvel at the difference in the price of a manicure versus a coffee.  My manicure was less expensive than my coffee!!   The girl in the nail salon spent 45 minutes doing my manicure and earned the equivalent of $3.25 while the barista in Starbucks took 5 minutes to make my drink, for which I paid the equivalent of $4.20.     Something definitely seems wrong with this picture!

Anyway, if you ever visit Lima be sure to get a manicure and be prepared to pay relatively high prices at Starbucks!

If you are at a restaurant or cafe in Lima and someone asks you what you want to drink your choices will be very different from what you would find in Canada.  Here is a description of the most common beverages you will find in Perú.

Gaseosas – Soft Drinks

Well, this one isn’t too different from what you would find in Canada.  You can usually choose from Coca-Cola and Sprite, as well as Inca Kola.

If you can get over the ghastly yellow color, Inca Kola really isn’t that bad.  It actually tastes a lot like cream soda and it even comes in ‘light’ for those watching their sugar intake.   If you are a lover of root beer or Dr. Pepper I am afraid you are out of luck.  Other soft drinks that you can buy in the supermarket, but that aren’t usually available in restaurants are Fanta orange and Canada Dry ginger ale.

Limonada – Limeade

Old-fashion lemonade doesn’t exist in Peru.  Instead, a very common drink here is what we would call limeade in English.  It is like lemonade, only made with limes instead of lemons.  Actually, yellow lemons are not common at all in Peru and are rather difficult to find.  The limes here are the small limes that we call key limes in Canada.  To Peruvians our large, green limes are very strange.  Limes are not only used to make limonada but are also used extensively in cooking, as a garnish and in tea.

Limonada is one of my favorite beverages to order when I am eating out.   It is a little more expensive than soft drinks, but somehow seems like it must be healthier, after all it is made with fruit.  You can order your limonada ‘a tiempo’ (room temperature), ‘helado’ (cold) or ‘frozen’.  Frozen limonada is like a slushy and always costs more.  Limonada can be ordered by the glass or in a jug, which serves about 4 people.

Chicha Morada

I have mentioned Chicha Morada in a previous post.  For those of you who don’t remember, it is a beverage that originated in the Andean region of Peru and is made from purple corn.  The traditional preparation consists of boiling the purple corn in water together with pineapple, cinnamon and cloves.  Once the preparation comes to a boil it is strained and left to chill.  Finally, sugar and lime juice are added.

Chicha can be ordered everywhere either in a glass or a jug.  As with límonada, you can order your chicha helada (cold) or sin helada (not cold).

Jugos – Juices

One of the best things in Peru is the fresh fruit juices.   While a glass a freshly-squeezed orange juice is hard to come by in Canada, here in Peru a wide-variety of fruit juices are easily found in cafes and restaurants.  You can order flavors that would be fairly normal to us in Canada such as orange, strawberry, banana, peach, papaya and pineapple  juice.  However, if you want to be more adventurous and experience something different there are many options.  You can choose from exotic fruit flavors such as guanabana, granadilla, lúcma, tuna and maracuya.

Juices can normally be ordered  in one of the following ways:

  • Basicos – one flavor of fruit only
  • Surtidos – a mix of 2 or more fruits
  • Cremosos – fruit con leche (with milk)
  • Frozen – blended with ice

Prices will vary depending on the place and the type of jugo you order but range they range from S/.5.00 to S/.9.00.   Juices with mixed fruits, milk or frozen are always more expensive.

A popular type of eating establishment in Peru is called a Sanguchería.  A Sanguchería is a sandwich shop where they serve a Peruvian-style sandwich different from anything you will find in Canada.  In addition to sandwiches, they also serve a variety of jugos (juices made from fresh fruit)

The sandwiches are generally served on fresh french bread which is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  The most typical sandwich flavor options are pollo (chicken), pavo (turkey), chicharrón (fried pork), lechón (suckling pig), jamón (ham) and salchicha (sausage).  What makes the meat different is the way it is cooked.  The pollo, pavo and lechon are often cooked ‘a la leña‘ which means over a fire, giving it a unique flavor.   Along with the meat, you can add cheese, bacon, egg or camote (sweet potato).  But what really makes the sandwiches special are the salsas (sauces).  You can choose from salsa criolla (finely sliced onions & ajï mixed with vegetable oil, lime juice, salt, pepper and cilantro), tartara (tartar sauce), ají (spicy), golf (a cross between ketchup and 1000 Islands dressing) and the regular mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup.

I have two favorite sangucherías in Lima… La Lucha (which translates as The Fight or The Struggle) and El Enano (The Dwarf).

La Lucha

La Lucha has two location across from Parque Kennedy.  They recently opened the new, larger location half a block from the original location.

The original location is small with very limited seating.  The majority of the people take their sandwich para llever (for take out).  It is located in La Plaza Esteban Canal, where people gather to play chess on the stone tables constructed there in 1985.

The new La Lucha located at Av. Diagonal 308.  It is very well situation, between Starbuck’s and The Flying Dog hostel.  It has counter seating like the original location, but also has tables inside where customers can sit and enjoy their meal.  The menu at the new location is expanded and offers more choices than its smaller partner.

The sanguche de pavo at La Lucha is one of my favorites.  The turkey, which is cooked a la leña, has an exquisite flavor.  My other top choice is the chiccharrón con camote.  The camote adds a sweet taste that complements the salty fried pork.   I like my sandwich with salsa criolla, tartara, ají and mayonnaise.  It is a bit messy to eat, but well worth the trouble.  And of course, the meal wouldn’t be complete without a fresh jugo de fresa (strawberry juice).

El Enano

El Enano is located at Jr. Chiclayo 699 at Arica.  It is a bit out-of-the-way but worth the trip. Its location on the corner with counter seating is inviting and you can watch the cooks as they prepare your sandwich.

The menu at El Enano is more extensive than La Lucha.  In addition to a wide variety of sandwiches, they also serve hamburgers, tacos and enchiladas.  The same salsa options that are available at La Lucha are also available at El Enano and you can also add hilos de papas (shoestring potatoe) to your sandwich which give it a nice crunchy texture.  My favorite sandwich so far is called ‘El Enano‘.  It comes with sausage, bacon, chorizo and cheese.  However, there are so many options yet to try at El Enano I can’t say that it will remain my top choice forever!

What is really outstanding about El Enano is the selection of jugos.  You can get almost any combination of fruits imaginable, many of which are uncommon or unheard of in Canada such as guanabana, granadilla, maracuya, tuna and lúcma.

If you ever have a chance to visit Lima, be sure to have a meal (lunch, dinner or midnight snack!) in one of the many local sangucherías. You will experience a unique twist on a food we are all very familiar with… the sandwich!

Mistura is an International Food Festival that took place in Lima from September 7 to 12.   This was the 3rd year of the festival, which began in 2008.   The festival features Perú’s top chefs and cuisine along with international guests.  This year’s guest country was Spain.

There was a lot of publicity and hype about Mistura here in Lima and, never having experienced it before, I thought it would be a good idea to go.  The tickets to enter cost S/.15 if you bought them ahead of time or S/.20 on the day of the event.  About a week and a half in advance we checked on-line but all the pre-sale tickets were sold out.  So, that meant we would have to buy tickets the day we went, which was last Saturday.

The festival was held in Parque de la Exposición, a large park in the center of Lima.  Tickets could be purchased starting at 10am on the day of the event at Centro Civico, a large mall near the park .  Luis works Saturday mornings so we didn’t arrive until 1:00pm.  When we got there I couldn’t believe it, the line to buy tickets was enormous.  It spanned about three blocks.    Had I known how long it was going to take I probably wouldn’t have waited, but after waiting for 2 hours I wasn’t about to give up and leave empty-handed.  In the end, we waited for 4 hours just to buy tickets to enter.  There were a lot of people selling reventas (scalped tickets) for S/.35 but Luis said they were not very nice people and that  we couldn’t be sure if the tickets were real… so we waited.

There were a few incidents in the line as the people became restless and the scalpers tried to enter multiple times to buy more tickets.  Finally they instituted a system of giving everyone in line a piece of pink paper that you had to show in order to enter to buy the tickets.  The crazy part was that they only had two cashiers selling the tickets.  This is one of the area where Peru really needs to improve… organization.  They are not very good at implementing systems and handling logistics.  There is no way that people should have had to wait in line for 4 hours to buy tickets for this event.  Hopefully next year they will make improvements to the system.

Anyway, after we finally bought our entrance tickets, we hopped on a shuttle bus that took us to the entrance.  We entered at about 5:30pm.  When we entered we could hardly move as there were so many people.  We had a map of the grounds and were trying to figure out where to go.  Food could be purchased in stalls, kind of like at the PNE, or in “restaurants”.  The food in stalls included Tradiciones (traditional food) and Cocinas Rústicas (Rustic Cuisine).   Rustic cuisine is cooked using a variety of methods such as Barril Cooking,  Caja China, Pachmanca and Pork on the Stake, as shown in the photo.

The restaurants weren’t really like sit-down restaurants but rather food provided by some of the top restaurants from around Peru, but still from a stall.  All the restaurants were located in two rows some distance away from the entrance so we decided to check it out in the hopes that it would be less crowded.

Now we waited in more lines.  First, we had to buy tickets to use to purchase food.  Tickets could be bought for S/.3, S/.6 and S/.12 and the price of food varied at each restaurant.  A full meal was S/.12, a half order, appetizer or dessert was S/.6 and drinks were S/.3.   This method of selling tickets in one place was probably a good idea so that each vendor didn’t have to deal with cash.  The line-up top buy the tickets actually wasn’t that bad.

The line-ups for the restaurants varied.  Luis was very hungry so we started out by going to the place that seemed to have the shortest line.  It was called El Tarwi and served food from the Andes region.  We ordered chicharrón (fried pork) which was served with camote (sweet potato), mote (large, whitish-colored corn), humita (a type of sweet tamale), canchita (crunchy Peruvian ‘unpopped’ popcorn) and cebolla con ají (onions with ají)  It was pretty good, but we were still hungry.

Next, we went to the place with the longest line-up.  It was called El Grifo and the people said that it was one of the best restaurants there.  We ordered Fettuccinis a la Huancaina con Lomo and Cheesecake de Toblerone.  We had to wait for about an hour but it was worth the wait.  The food was really good.  A very unique Peruvian style fettuccine and one of the best desserts I have had here in Peru.   While we were waiting in line we took the opportunity to try a Pisco Sour from Huaringas Bar.  They are supposedly famous for their drinks, each of which cost S/.12, a little expensive, but we got souvenir cups to take home.  The drink was really good and helped us relax after a long day of standing in lines.

By this point we were getting a little full but we still had a few tickets left to use up.  So, we ordered a Causa from La Preferida and Suspiro de Chocolate from La Huaca Pucllana (the restaurant where we got engaged).  We also tried a few more pisco sours in the Rincón de Pisco.

Apart from the Rincón de Pisco, there was the Rincón de Cafe and the Rincón de Chocolate.  These were pavilions that you entered and could try free tasters and buy various products.  In addition to selling all types of food and food products at the festival there were also demonstrations and shows at various times throughout the day.  We didn’t get to see any of those as we arrived late and spent the entire time either in a line to get food, drinking or eating!

Mistura is an interesting experience and a good way to try a variety of cuisines at a price this is less expensive than you would normally pay in a lot of the participating restaurants.  However, I definitely recommend you plan ahead, buy tickets in advance and be prepared to wait for your food and drinks!

Last night we went to a birthday party for Luis’ sister.   Well, as Luis kept telling me it wasn’t una fiesta (party) it was una reunion (gathering or get together).  Whatever you want to call it, there are some differences here in how birthdays are celebrated.

Like with weddings, things get started rather late.  The party, I mean gathering, was at Luis’ parent’s house where Kelly (his sister) and her husband live on the second floor.  The guests, Kelly’s friends, started arriving about 9:00pm.

Everyone was seated around the living room drinking Gran Borgoña, a type of sweet wine that is produced here in Peru, and eating piqueos (appetizers).  Music was playing and people were chatting.  As time went on and more wine was consumed the conversations became louder, along with the music.  Eventually, a few people started to dance.  Dancing at home during social gatherings is very common here.  It is a big part of the culture.

Eventually, at midnight dinner was served.  We ate pollo a la brasa (roasted chicken), arroz a la jardin (rice with little bits of carrots, corn and peas) and ensalada (salad).   Something I have noticed here is that people often don’t use knives when they eat, just forks.  For me, this makes things, like a chicken breast, somewhat difficult to eat… especially with my plate on my lap instead on a table.  People here are used to it and have developed refined skills in eating without  a knife.   I need more practice!

After eating a round of Pisco Sours was served and finally the cake arrived!  As in Canada, the tradition is to light the candles on the cake, dim the lights and sing happy birthday to the birthday person.  Interestingly, they always start by singing Happy Birthday in English (even if a person doesn’t speak English they seem to know the words to Happy Birthday) followed by a version in Spanish.  The Spanish version is to the same tune and goes like this…

Feliz Cumpleaños a ti, Feliz Cumpleaños a ti, Feliz Cumpleaños (name of birthday person), Feliz Cumpleaños a ti.

Cumpleaños feliz, te deseamos a tí, Cumpleaños felices, te deseamos a tí

After the candles were blown out, the birthday girl gave a little speech thanking everyone for attending and sharing this special day with here.  Then there was more drinking, chatting and dancing until about 3:30am when things finally wind down and people head home.

One other different thing is how gifts are handled.  In Canada people normally open their presents with all the guests there so that everyone can see what the birthday person got and the birthday person can thank the guests for the gifts.  Here presents never seem to get opened.  For me it is kind of strange.

As the former capital of the Inca Empire, the population of Cusco today is largely indigenous.  In many areas both Spanish and Quechua are spoken.  Quechua is the language that was spoken in the Andes at the time of the Inca and today there are still some people in the region who only speak Quechua and not Spanish.

The indigenous people of Cusco maintain their traditional style of dress, which is very colorful and charming.  Skirts are commonly worn by the woman and they have their hair in long braids topped with a bowler hat, a tradition that began in the 1920’s.  Clothing is made from cotton and wool of alpaca and llama.  The tradition styles of dance and music continue to be very important parts of the culture in Cusco.   A lot of Andean music uses the panflute, which is made from aquatic reeds found in many lakes in the region.

The primary industries in Cusco are agriculture and tourism.

In the Andean zone, they cultivate potatoes, maiz (corn), Quinua, Cañihua, Kiwicha (types of grains) and Olluco ( a root vegetable like a potato) .  In the valley, where the climate is warmer, they cultivate fruits, alfalfa and eucalyptus. In the high and low forests, they cultivate bananas, yuca, coca, sugar canes, coffee and cacao.  Along with agriculture there is a lot of livestock including cattle, sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas.

Cusco is a very touristy place as anyone going to Machu Picchu has to pass through the city.  There are numerous hotels, hostels, restaurants, tourists agencies and souvenir shops in Cusco. Many elders and children from the rural areas come into the city with their llamas or baby lambs and try to make money by having their photos taken with tourists.   It costs one sol to have your photo taken with them.  There are also people on the street trying to sell hats, sunglasses, purses and bags, water-bottle holders and a variety of other tourist-oriented merchandise.

Some of the local cuisine in Cusco includes cuy (guinea pig) and alpaca.  I tried both when I was there, although it was Luis that ordered these dishes.  Cuy actually tastes quite good, but there are a lot of little bones which makes it kind of tedious to eat.  Also, the fact the it comes served with the head and legs still attached makes it a little off-putting.   Surprisingly, cuy is quite expensive compared to other types of meats.  The alpaca was tender and tasted neither like chicken nor beef.  It was also quite good.  Below is the cuy and alpaca that we enjoyed while in Cusco.  I have a picture that shows a close-up of the head of the guinea pig where you can actually see the little teeth and whiskers, but I will spare you the graphic details.

Something that stood out to me in Cusco was the number of dogs.  There seems to be an unusually high dog population in the city.  No matter where you are you will see dogs strolling down the street or sleeping in the sun.  They also like to chase the cars as they drive by.  I couldn’t really tell if the dogs belong to people as pets or if there are just a lot of strays.  I suspect it is a little of both.  In the hills outside the city there are sheep farms and the dogs are used to help herd the sheep.  Interestingly, I didn’t see one cat in Cusco!  The little puppy on the right was playing with another older dog and was very cute.   The dog on the left was enjoying the early morning sun at the foot of the stair leading up to the cathedral in the Plaza de Armas.

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Miraflores in Lima Perú