Peruvian food is determined by the geography of the country, its climate and the customs of their people.
There are several regions with completely different climates. This allows for several different typical dishes depending on the region where people live.
Due to its proximity to the Equator, Peru should have a very hot tropical climate. In reality the climate is defined by a big mountain chain, The Andes, which starts a couple of hundred kilometers in the south of Peru and ends a few kilometers north of Peru. The Andes divides the country into three geographical regions: the Coast (next to the ocean, where the capital Lima is located), the High Lands or Andes (where the old capital Cusco is located), and the Amazon Basin (which occupies more than half of Peru).
The majority of the ingredients found in every Peruvian dish are rice, potatoes, chicken, pork, lamb, and fish. Most of these meals also include one of the different kinds of "aji", or peruvian hot pepper. These peppers are generally the yellow aji pepper, the red aji pepper, and the red rocoto pepper. There are also many other aji that are commonly used, but have names that are untranslatable.
Most of these kinds of peppers are difficult to find in any other country, so it is very difficult to exactly reproduce most of the typical dishes in the the same way.
Many of the ingredients used in typical dishes (like chicken, pork, and lamb) were introduced to Peru 500 years ago, when the Spaniards came to the Americas. Other ingredients, like potatoes (which is maybe the best known Peruvian food worldwide) were found by the Spaniards in the Peruvian Andes and carried back to Europe. There are maybe 5 very common kinds of potatoes found in everyday Peruvian dishes. Among them are the white and pink potatoes, due to their facility to grow in most kinds of weather.
The earliest discovered remains of potatoes date to 400 B.C. They were found at archeological sites at Chiripa, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, in the city of Puno, in the east of Peru, next to the border with Bolivia.
After its discovery by Spanish conquistadors, the potato was taken to Europe.
However, the potato's acceptance in Europe was not met with open arms. Because the potato was not mentioned in the Bible, the clergy deemed them unfit for the human diet.
Spanish records show that it entered Seville in 1570 and was used to feed hospital patients in 1573. It then traveled to Italy, Germany, and into the Orient. Later a royal Swedish edict compelled Swedes to grow the crop.
It took nearly two centuries, following the potato's introduction from South America, before it really achieved common acceptance.
Bill Pitzer and Earle Holland wrote in the New York Times; Peru is the world's potato capital. Two-thirds of the world's potato crops originate in Europe, but the production there cannot compare with the diversity of tubers found in this South American country.
They range in color from purple to blue and from yellow to brown. Sizes and textures vary as well. Some are small as nuts; others can be as large as an orange.
The taste of different potatoes varies broadly, thus explaining why these vegetables are used in all kind of dishes from appetizers to desserts.
Sea Food (Cevicherias)
When a Peruvian goes to a restaurant at lunch time or in a special situation (someone's birthday, for example), they primarily go to "Cevicherias". This kind of restaurant serves all kinds of sea food. The most traditional meal in Peru is the Ceviche. This is a cold dish, which mainly consists of pieces of raw fish cooked in the juice of lemons. It is always served with onions, camote (one kind of sweet peruvian potato) and, of course, the peruvian aji pepper.
Comida Criolla (Typical peruvian dishes)
Although most of the daily dishes Peruvians eat are easy to prepare, there are also lots of dishes that require several hours to preparare. In this case, these dishes are mostly prepared in restaurants and not in Peruvian homes (at least not on week days).
The Criolla food can be found in at least 5 different kind of restaurants, each representing the typical food of the people who live in certain regions. Each dish has a different taste, flavor, and contains different ingredients.
Some of the most typical dishes are shown below:
Anticuchos: marinated grilled beef heart.