Guinea pig is, without a doubt, one of the top traditional dishes that passengers remember long after leaving the region. Although typically eaten by Peruvians only during times of celebration such as weddings, birthdays, and festivals, the lucky traveler can often obtain a local dish of cuy at any restaurant on any day.
Served fried or baked and with various garnishes, the typical cuy dish is recommended to try, but generally not as a main course as you may find yourself starving for a second dinner! Order a serving as an appetizer, but be warned that this dish is served intact with the head and claws included. If you are squeamish and don’t mind missing an unusual photo op, ask your waiter to have the kitchen cut it up for you before it makes its way to your table.
Although seafood in Cusco is little recommended due to its distance from the ocean, fresh trout is a local specialty and is available in huge quantities from the local streams and rivers. Served in a variety of ways and sauces, the best recommendation to not obscure the flavor is also the simplest- trucha frita. In this case the trout is served pan fried in a very light batter, often with white rice and French fries accompanying it.
Another favorite of Cusquenians, this dish is often offered by restaurants as an appetizer or main course. The dish centers around a stuffed rocoto or hot pepper similar in shape to that of the less spicy bell pepper. Common ingredients in the stuffing include ground meat, onions, rice, peanuts, raisins, carrots, peas and fried egg.
Chicharron can come in a variety of different forms depending on the meat that is fried within it. Although common forms of chicharron include white fish, trout, and chicken in a heavier batter, the undeniably most popular is chicharron de cerdo-or fried pork. Served often with mint salad and white sweet corn on the cob, called choclo, and potatoes, these meaty portions of fried pork are very popular among Cusquenians looking for a hearty lunch-so much so that the city even has entire streets dedicated to the dish!
Though not a food, Chicha Morada is a typical Peruvian drink whose recipe has been in use since Incan times. A non-alcoholic sister of the fermented grain/corn drink chicha, the purple (morada) version is made from purple corn and ultimately tastes a lot like fruit punch. This is a perfect drink to order by the jug to pair with your quintessential Peruvian meal!