One very special thing about Peru is its cevicherias, picanterias, heladerias, pastelerias, and chocolaterias! The goodies are never-ending! For those wondering about these popular Peruvian establishments, heladerias, pastelerias, and chocolaterias are easy to figure out, but during this trip I’ve learned that cevicherias and picanterias are a little more complicated. Below just a few of the many things I learned during this visit to South America.
In the cake and ice cream category, queso helado is another delicious favorite sold in parks, cafes, and on the street by Inca women dressed in colorful traditional clothing.
Capriccio, a bakery near Arequipa’s Plaza De Las Armas, brings a smile to everyone’s face. You enjoy coffee and dessert while watching pastry boxes being carried in and out of the front door. THE best is their famous, torta de zanahoria – carrot cake!
Cevicherias or Cebicherias
Cevicherias or Cebicherias serve ceviche – raw fish marinated in lemon and lime juice. Ceviche is Peru’s national dish and a symbol of the country. Preparation varies in different regions of Peru but the acid in the citrus juice coagulates the proteins in the fish and cooks it so it’s served cold or at room temperature.
Picanterias and Chicherias
In Arequipa Picanterias and Chicherias began as local places where people went to quench their thirst by drinking chicha, a drink made from corn and fermented in ceramic barrels. Chicha comes from the time of the Incas. The drink was adopted by the Spaniards and has survived to the present day. Fermented chicha has a bitter taste but is very refreshing. So chicherias could sell more chicha, they began offering plain food dishes, with just a touch of picante sauce.
The restaurants in Arequipa usually offer a main dish called “rocoto”. Rocoto relleno is the Peruvian variety of stuffed peppers, a dish which originated in Spain and became popular in Arequipa. Since the sweet peppers used in Spain weren’t available in Peru they substituted rocoto peppers. Rocotos are spicier than jalapeño when raw and considered one of the most famous dishes of Peru. Peruvians do amazing things with those peppers!
Originally chicherias were in Arequipa’s downtown houses. A red flag was hung outside the house to mark the place where you could eat and drink. The chicherias had large tables with benches where customers sat close to each other side by side. While the food was served, they passed around the chicha in one big glass to share with friends. Later, the picanterias moved to districts in the outskirts of Arequipa. There’s a picanteria in Yanahuara near my hotel and yes, it’s full of long wooden benches where everyone sits side by side.
Hit by a miserable case of traveler’s gastroenteritis i.e., diarrhea, etc., I’ve been lying low for a few days. I rarely get sick while traveling but during a long trip it always seems to happens at least a few times no matter how carefully I watch my diet. Today was slow. I spent most of the day sitting in the park trying to enjoy fresh air and sunshine.
Plaza de Yanahuara
The beautiful Plaza de Yanahuara near my hotel is a popular stop for tourist buses, so the merchants in the area are forever busy. The park is full of massive, perfectly formed palm trees, so just sitting there all day looking at them is no problem.
Regulars in the area noticed my extended presence and made me feel welcome. I met the local veterinarian, a restaurateur, several artists selling their crafts at the small open market, the policemen who patrol the park, and even the neighborhood dogs. Two street parades passed by with brass bands and drums, and groups of school children wandered by later. By mid-afternoon I was feeling better or at least well enough to walk back uphill to the hotel to continue the day’s respite.
On Thursday I begin a few days of trekking in Colca Canyon and hope to be recovered from this brief setback by then and able to keep up with the trekking group! Not sure thinking about food is speeding the recovery along.