What to eat in Arequipa: An introduction to the Andean cuisine

(Approximate reading time: 8 minutes)

As I wrote earlier in another article on my blog, Peru has the best cuisine of the world and is rich of completely different types/styles of food. But many people merely know the seafood and coastal influences to the Peruvian kitchen. No wonder why: It is it of course the Peruvian capital Lima that attracts the most of the international people. And they get to know of course the coastal kitchen, because Lima is a coastal city. But you have to go a little higher than sea level to get introduced to the real soul of Peruvian food and plates with tasty spices and ingredients you won’t dare your own eyes.

The Andean food of Arequipa is as rich in history as it is in flavor. I had the chance to discover the traditions of this mountainous region. The food of the Peruvian mountains is hearty and nothing for lovers of sweets. But that doesn’t mean, that you won’t enjoy the miraculous food the Andean kitchen has to offer.

Wood-fired ovens and ceramic pots preserve the flavor through a slow and aromatic cooking process

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I can’t remember how often I saw the different ceramic pots as part of the Andean kitchen. But sometimes the people from Arequipa even serve the dish with the ceramic pots to bring an authentic image. Really impressive was the restaurant Sonccollay, which claims to be the only restaurant worldwide with a Pre-Inca cooking style. They always use the same cooking spoon and the same ceramic pot for the same ingredient. Other said: They want to avoid a mix of the flavors and have a cooking spoon and ceramic pot for each ingredient. Like this, they seem to have a lot of items for the kitchen as you might imagine.

Yes, maybe it needs a little bit more patience to wait to be served in the Andean region. But therefor the ingredients of your dish receive a mild treatment and you can taste that in every better restaurant. It’s neither overcooked nor stale in taste. But definitely worth to wait for it.

Amounts of the Andean plates could even satisfy the worst muncher

If you’re a fan of gluttony or if your zodiac sign is The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I can guarantee you, that you’ll get your money’s worth. Take me as an example. I eat for a meal as much as the whole Russian national team of ice hockey – And sometimes I even order a second plate AND a dessert. But what people from Arequipa served in and on their plates was even satisfying for me. In comparison to the rather expensive capital of Lima, you will get a lot of food for a low price. You’re on diet? Good for you, but better travel somewhere else.

Crema de Zapallo

A pumpkin cream soup, served with Arequipan rusk and cheese. Usually served as a starter. If you’re able to demolish half a quarter gallon of soup directly as a starter. I could!

Cauche de Queso

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What we have here is a very interesting dish, that stands out for its sauce. The sauce is made with fresh mountain cheese, peppers, huacatay, beans and milk. And almost always accompanied with parboiled potatoes, peeled and sliced. As well you’ll find onions with cheese and ham in a softly mixed creamy sauce. Local herbs on top are more than just decoration and give a nice flavor to that dish.

Ocopa Arequipeña

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This plate consists of a sauce based on Huacatay (a tall upright marigold plant called Tagetes minuta) and ají mirasol (Capsicum baccatum) served on boiled potatoes. There is a similar Peruvian dish known as Papa a la Huancaína, that you please shouldn’t confuse.

The sauce is made with ají mirasol (Capsicum baccatum), both seared without its seeds. Further, the sauce includes seared onion and garlic, evaporated milk, fresh cheese, soda biscuits, peanuts, salt and oil. All these ingredients are milled traditionally in a fulling mill or liquefied in such a way that they obtain a slightly pasty consistency and a characteristic yellow color. Optionally, the preparation of Ocopa is ground on river shrimp. The dish is finally decorated with a hard boiled egg and an olive, in Arequipa it is usually accompanied with boiled potatoes or shrimp.

Chupe de Camarones

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This was also a novelty for me. I really like to eat seafood, fish and all these items from natures’ oceans, lakes and rivers. But I actually don’t have a lot of experience with it. So it was for me the first time, that I ate a dish with a fully visible animal. In this case it was king prawn and according to its size the king of the kings. Accompanied again with parboiled potatoes and Andean cheese. The prawn bathed in a soup, that was quite spicy. All in all it was unforgettable because of the new experience rather than the taste itself. It tasted quite good, but I got annoyed pretty fast because of the whole work to shell the prawns.

Queso Helado

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Probably the biggest fake news and greatest way to trick a Gringo like me. What do you expect when you order cold cheese as a dessert? Maybe cold cheese! What don’t you receive? Cold cheese!

Instead of cold cheese you receive tasty ice cream. With a single lick, it’s will come clear for you that Queso Helado holds no cheese in its icy crystals, or even any artificial cheese flavor. It tastes slightly of cinnamon, vanilla, and maybe coconut, but majorly its ‘just’ milk, because it doesn´t come with any cream in the preparation, just three different types of milk: fresh milk, unsweetened evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. A real milky experience!

The frosty texture is more like shaved or dissected ice than the usual ice cream bowl you would expect from a cold dessert. But it’s definitely a tasty experience!

Doble

Funny to order a ‘Double’ here, aight?! But if you do order a double, you will get the two most typical dishes from Arequipa combined in one plate. Ignoring here the third component of this plate, Chicharones de Chancho (deep-fried pork meat) which is not special for the Andean kitchen but for whole Peru, a Doble comes with Pastel de Papa and Rocoto Relleno.

Pastel de Papa (potato cake) consists of layers of thinly sliced potatoes, to which a link of milk and eggs is added. Additionally, it has abundant cheese and anise seeds. In Arequipa it has been popular as garnish for stuffed rocoto, although it is traditionally accompanied with baked potatoes topped with cheese.

Rocoto Relleno (stuffed paprika) is a pepper, which is at least ten times spicier than jalapeño as a crude fruit. Rocoto (Capsicum pubescens) is originally from Peru and dates back to Pre-Incan times. The spicy peppers are stuffed with red vinegar, ground beef, ground pork, olive oil, tomato sauce, white wine, cream, pecans, beef stock, aji panca paste, potatoes, red onion, garlic, margarine, flour, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese. That’s quite something, but it all combined tastes awesome awesome awesome!

Carne de Alpaca

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When in Arequipa, behave like Arequipans – Part One.

Well, what should I say? People like to consume things which are endemic to their region. No matter if vegetables, herbs, fruits or livestock. And in the Andes, there are a lot of Alpacas. And they taste quite yummi.

How does an Alpaca taste? Its meat is not stringy as pork, neither soft as a chicken. It’s in the middle of this scale and tastes a little bit sour with a juicy aftertaste. Depending of course on the dish and the preparation itself. But generally spoken I would recommend to try it at least one time.

Cuy chactado

When in Arequipa, behave like Arequipans – Part Two.

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Other people keep it as a pet, people like me prefer it to eat up. A very famous dish is the Andean guinea pig, called ‘Cuy’. The Cuy has its name from the squeaking sound it makes when you hunt it. As you can imagine, a guinea pig doesn’t have a lot of meat on its body. Because of that, you’ll receive the entire animal on the plate itself. Maybe not completely entire, the guts and intestines are removed before. But other than that, you’ll receive the full program: Paws, legs and the face comes with its teeth and whiskers. You definitely need to be a hardy sucker to not freak out when you see that plate for the first time.

“Chactado” means nothing more than squashed under stones and then fried. Brutal people these Arequipans, but still good cooks. I cannot repeat it more often. The Cuy is accompanied by chunky corn on the cob, yellow potatoes, and a simple salsa criolla

How does it taste? It’s sort of like a cross between rabbit and chicken. Does this information help you? No, you have to try it yourself when you’ll have the chance to.

Where can I eat all the wonderful food from Arequipa?

I can definitely recommend three different restaurants to try the food from Arequipa. Generally spoken would it be maybe a good idea to get away from the historic centre of Arequipa, because there you will pay very touristic prices. And it is still possible to have the amount and quality of food for a more economic price.

La Nueva Palomino

The first is a traditional one called ‘La Nueva Palomino’. You have to walk a lot, because it is at the other side of the river. Better take a taxi, because you have to be on time to get there. The restaurant is only open from 12:00 to 17:00. So get early there or you have to wait for a long time to get a table.

Arthur Restaurant

…a very classy restaurant with a great interior. The prices were classy as well, but I say that they were worth it.

I have no idea why I was the only guest in the evening, because the food quality was outstanding. It was really worth to visit and I heard as well from the kitchen, that there were people taking some cooking lessons in French language. But other than that, there wasn’t any guest in that beautiful restaurant. Great, so I didn’t have to wait for such a long time!

Wayrana

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Wayrana is an elegant restaurant with a modern and exotic decor. The place has a waterfall in the middle of the lounge, sculptures in ashlar, granite and marble, as well as other pieces of art that differentiate this restaurant among others. And I shouldn’t forget about the food and the nice people I had dinner with. I met together with my travel and house companion Susan a very nice and pleasant couple from the Netherlands. With good people like Bart and Denise, your food tastes as double as good as it would taste solely.

Arequipa is a city in the Andes and has next to the typical Andean kitchen a few specialities from the city to offer. I hope to maybe have helped someone with my personal report about the Arequipan kitchen. If I could have reached at least one person with my text to follow my recommendations, my mission is accomplished. Buen provecho!

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