Monday, February 19, 2007

Food in Peru

Most people know of my love of exotic fruits while travelling, but I´m also generally interested in local food and cuisine. Here´s a little info about food in Peru thus far.

Every breakfast we've had thus far (free at our hostels) has been rolls, butter/margarine, jam, some sort of juice and tea. (Fortunately, a cup or two of black tea seems to be enough caffeine for me to get by with.) Not too exciting, but it does fill you up.

We´ve had a variety of lunches. In general, it´s the most affordable meal of the day, where you can get a set menu ranging from 4.5 to 10 soles ($1.50 to a little over $3) which includes some kind of appetizer, a main dish, beverage and maybe something sweet at the end. As we´ve noted earlier, our language skills generally leaves some question as to what we´ll actually end up with, but it has included ceviche, some kind of chicken skewer, fish/chicken/beef with french fries (pappas fritas) or rice.

Dinner is quite a bit pricier than lunch. Except in Lima, there haven´t been grocery stores and we haven´t had cooking access. Going out generally starts at 20-30 soles for an entree ($8-10), not including drink or any other courses. Again, lots of fries and rice, and though the price is high, the portions are large. Tyler and I are realizing that we could almost always split an entree and leave happy. We´ve had chicharron (fried fish and chicken) and various beef and chicken dishes. Tonight we had an appetizer of pollo salpicon, which ended up being a chicken salad with potato, carrot and pineapple in a mayo dressing--quite good, though we thought we were ordering the chicken skewer Tyler had for lunch another day. Then we ate pollo arabe, something that I guessed would be a spicy sauce, since it looked vaguely like árrabiata. It was actually chicken in some sort of soy-type sauce. It is always a bit of an adventure.

Last night, after an expensive lunch on our tour of the Reserva Nacional Paracas, we decided to eat cheap and get food from a small vendor rather than a sitdown restaurant. We had chorizo sandwiches, and Tyler went back to get the most popular dish at the place--salchipapas, french fries with what we think was thinly sliced hotdog and ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, and a green sauce. It was pretty tasty and inexpensive, but we were a little sick this morning.

We´ve also tried some of the renowned ceviche, or fish ´cooked´in lemon juice with peppers and red onion. It has been tasty, but every time I eat it, Tyler fears that one of us will end up with a lung fluke. (Long story.) It has been good--fresh, citrusy, with a little bit of spice, but I keep wanting something a little better. Smaller pieces or something. But, then again, we haven´t been eating at super-fancy restaurants.

Another interesting thing has been that there is some variety of food--quite a few Chinese restaurants in Lima, and Italian food (at least pasta) at most restaurants. However, I've heard and read enough about limp noodles with ketchup to stick with local cuisine for the time being.

My new favorite thing is chicha morada, a dark purple beverage sold on the street. When we first had it as one of our refreshes with a set lunch menu, I guessed it was maybe some kind of iced hibiscus tea, but it is actually a drink made from fermented purple corn, with cinnamon, pineapple, clove, sugar and lemon juice.

The only other interesting food-related comment is about tipping. We´re still unsure if and what is expected. We didn´t tip at first, until we noticed we started getting change that was meant to be easy to tip with (e.g., we need 10 soles back and get a 5 coin, a 2 coin and three 1 sole coins). But we still don´t know what to leave, so it´s a bit of a crapshoot. And because we can´t ask anyone and didn´t bring that part of our guidebook, we´re flying a bit blind. But that´s becoming commonplace.


Timothy said...

Tipping's tricky.

In my experience you're best off following two basic rules:

1) It's not obligatory. The US is pretty much the only place in the world where not to tip for everything is a crime. Certainly don't let people scam yuou into giving them money for little things or you'll find yourself being taken advantage of pretty quickly.

2) Ultimately in most of these places the tip is going to be cents to you, but quite a bit to them. So if you've enjoyed a meal, leave a little something. You'll begin to get a feel for prices as you move through a country which will give you an idea how much makes sense to leave (the % rule doesn't always make sense).

In other news, this sounds awesome. Though I do wonder just how long you'll keep this regular-updating thing going. Most people slack off in a short time...

Tim said...

I imagine you probably already did your own web search, but just in case you didn't:

"When you are paying your bill in a restaurant, look for the words propina or servicio near the bottom of the bill. This means the restaurant has added a tip, usually between 5 to 10%. If you think the service is good, you can give the waiter an extra 10%. The cheapest restaurants usually do not include a tip. If this is the case, leave the waiter 10%."

"A few tips on tipping in Peru: Most restaurant and bar bills include a 10% gratuity. It's customary to add an extra 10% if the service has been satisfactory."

Thaddeus Gunn said...

Tipping is a city in China. If you're thinking about Tipping, you're in the wrong country. How long were you on that plane, anyway?

Anonymous said...

I believe the lung fluke is Asian in nature, so be undeterred in your ceviche consumption!


Sarah said...

Thanks, Tim and Hallie. We surprisingly haven´t encountered service charges yet and have been leaving some change, more for places with good food and nice people. Thanks for the info!

As for keeping it up....we´ll see. I think Tyler and I like blogging for the journaling aspect, as we both find it easier to type than handwrite anymore. But who knows what we´ll think in a few weeks/months. It can also be a nice respite from a hot and hectic world sometimes!