So you have a little time in Cusco before your big trek to Machu Picchu. You don’t have a lot of time, but you want to make sure you get in some of the little cultural experiences before you’re off on your next adventure. How to you prioritize all the different options?
In this blog post, I have complied some simple cultural food and beverage options to try in Peru.
The first on I have listed may make our vegetarian friends cringe a bit, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell you about Cuy. Cuy is guinea pig. Yes, the same kind of guinea pig you had when you were a kid, and probably named fluffy or whiskers. Far from a pet, cuy is a local delicacy in Peru, served crispy and whole with all body parts still attached. So if crispy rat sounds appealing to you, check it out and make sure to get a picture to freak out your friends back home. You can find cuy being sold ready to eat in and around the local markets, and in many different restaurants that serve local Peruvian food.
After your traditional meal you may be thirsty and want to wash your meal down with a refreshing local beverage. Number two on our list, Pisco Sour, is the perfect choice. The origins of the Pisco Sour are not completely known, but most believe that it originated in Lima Peru in the early 1900's. The common story is that the recipe we now know was created in a bar in lima by English Expat Victor Morris in the 1920's, but some believe it was around even earlier than that. What we do know for sure is that the Pisco Sour has been around for more than 100 years, and usually contains Pisco, lime juice, sugar, and egg whites. If you like other kinds of sour drinks like whisky sour, odds are that you will enjoy this beverage!
COCA TEA AND CANDIES
Coca leaves, not to be confused with its white powdery by product, are a traditional medicinal regularly consumed in Peru. When you first travel to Peru, you may notice that it’s a bit harder to breath, you may be a bit lightheaded when you walk up hills the first few days. Peru is at quite a high altitude, (about 11,000 feet.) Before there was modern medicine, there was coca leaves. So if you want to prepare to trek the Andes, make sure you start and end your day with a steaming mug of coca tea, and to have some coca candies in your purse.
Chica is a drink almost as old as Peru. Created by the ancient Inca, chica is a fermented corn drink that tastes a bit like sour beer. You can get a towering mug of this alcoholic beverage in traditional chicherias around the city, sometimes with some traditional food, and many people sell it in large buckets outside the plazas and markets. You can also buy other kinds of chicha like quinoa, beat and strawberry in juice form. Tred carefully! A couple soles worth of the original yellow liquid might be enough for even the most seasoned drinker.