Arequipa, this gorgeous city in southern Peru is the second largest and seemingly has one of the best cuisines in the country. At 2,400mt above sea level a lot of travellers come here en route to Cusco to acclimatise to the altitude, and so very glad we did too. The architecture in the city is characterised by the use of sillar, a white and slightly porous volcanic stone, which acts as the building block to pretty much the entire historical center. Arequipa is enveloped by 3 huge inactive volcanoes / mountains (each about 6,000mt high) whose huge presence and snowy tips give a gorgeous backdrop to this colonial city.
We arrived on a Sunday and in good European style the city was dead, so after a stroll around town and a little rest we focussed on researching where and what to eat. The Arequipenos food culture is one of Picanterias, the equivalent of Italian trattorias with menus well known for their love of spice. So our first meal lead us to a famous place called La Nueva Palomino, and on recommendation of our lovely waiter Raul, we had an Especial Picantero. This huge plate consisted of various tasters of their local delicacies. Clockwise we had:
– Rocoto relleno – a spicy bell pepper stuffed with meats and veg
– Pastel de papa – a Peruvian version of potatoes dauphinoise
– Chicharron de cerdo – succulent roast pork
– Quinoa cakes
– Rodaja de choclo y queso – corn on the cob with cheese
– Estofado de cogote de res y arroz – beef stew with rice
– Soltero de queso – cheese, carrot and broad bean salad
Everything was absolutely amazing, the tastiest of flavours! Our least favourite was the drink, chicha. A slightly boozy dark maiz based drink.
On day 2 we enjoyed a free walking tour around town and in between lessons of history and culture, we learned lots about food. We tasted the best Queso Helado in town (milk, coconut and sugar ice cream), went to a local food market, learned that two of the staple dishes are Cuy (fried whole Guinea pig) and chupa de camarones (prawn soup), and that to digest the huge portions most meals end with a shot of Anizado (sambuca) which the tour guide was nice enough to offer me (at 11am). (Input from Annalie here – I’ve never seen Katie move so quickly after the tour guide asked for a volunteer to try the drink…)
As soon as our tour finished we went on the hunt for another Picanteria and this time landed at La Picanteria Mundial, another little gem. We saw the portions here were huge so decided not to kill a little guinea pig and went for a delicious starter of Escribano (potatoes with a tomatoes and chilli salsa) followed by the chupa de camarones. It wasn’t quite the delicate soup de poisson you’d expect, but more like a bucket filled with all sorts of local flavours (corn, pumpkin, rice etc), but nonetheless very flavoursome. Our lunch here was memorable not only due to the food and the venue but also thanks to David Corales, a 92 year old man who couldn’t help but flirt with Annalie and come offer us some chicha and some sweet local wine. He was the sweetest and most charming old man; he sat at our table with his nephew and starting telling us about his adventures in Europe. Here’s a photo of the four of us smiling at our new found friendship
In no time came day 3, and we decided to celebrate our last hours in Arequipa with a cooking lesson. Our teacher for the day was Lady, a lovely Peruvian lady who taught us how to make 2 dishes: causa (a potato, avocado and chicken salady thing) and lomo saltado (beef stir fry). Our lesson was great fun, with 5 other aspiring chefs, and set in an luscious green courtyard. With our bellies full we set off on a final walk around the city for a spot of shopping and a quick drink before departing.
Ciao for now! X