I have been in Cusco a while now, and have got to taste a lot of the culinary delights. From guinea pig and alpaca to some trout ceviche, it’s all been wonderful! But, one of my favorite things to eat has to be street food.
There’s a lot of it around and you’ll see locals strategically placed throughout the city selling some of their homemade delights. It’s very cheap and is super delicious, so I want to share with you a few of my favorites so that you can give them a try when in town.
Tamales aren’t only a Peruvian delicacy. A lot of places across Southern and Latin America will sell them, but they’ll all be a little different. In Cusco, they are slim and small, so great for a mid-morning snack. (They go great with coffee!)
You get to choose between a sweet one, with a raisin inside, or a savory one, with pork/chicken/beef, onion, olive, and a bit of a kick. I don’t have a favorite as it depends on what I fancy at the time. They’re both great options and you’ll find the best ones in the corner of the Plaza de Armas to the right of the Cathedral.
Choclo con Queso
This can often be a part of the main meal, too, but you’ll see many ladies selling them around the streets to fill a whole when wandering and exploring. It’s corn and cheese, but not how we know it. The corn is huge and really tasty and goes perfectly with the unique Andean cheese, Paria.
You want one that’s hot so it tastes extra good, and can warm you up on a chilly day in the center. There are a few regulars who sell them around the main square, or if you’re walking up to Sacsayhuaman, you’ll see them at the entrance. You may feel like one after the uphill hike!
I would say this is my favorite and most delicious street food of them all in Cusco. They only come out early evening and at night, unless there’s a special event on. In the evening you’ll find them around a lot of central locations and should definitely give them a try if you see them.
They are skewers that consist of different meats grilled in a delicious marinade with a potato on the end. A couple is enough for dinner, or one is good enough if you just want to give them a try. But it’ll be hard not to order more. You can choose from beef, chicken, and even beef hearts, which are my personal favorite.
Papa con Huevo
This translates to potato and egg, which may seem an odd street food. Generally, you’ll find them in the mornings as it’s more of breakfast food. Both are boiled and it’s a simple as that. But what makes it special and really tasty is the chili sauce the sellers make and squirt all over it. It’s very cheap and keeps you full all morning.
Another street breakfast favorite of mine is quinoa. It’s made into a drink with apple, cinnamon, and sugar. It’s served warm and is absolutely delicious! There are sometimes other options including maca, kiwicha, and oats. They are all as tasty as the last. The ladies who sell these hot drinks also sell sandwiches with a selection of eggs, cheese, avocado, amongst other things. You can get a great breakfast for just a couple of soles.
These are big roast pork sandwiches that also include red onion, sweet potato, chilis, and a selection of sauces. They can be a great breakfast, lunch, or even just a snack. They taste great and are a real taste of Peru.
San Pedro Market
It’s not quite street food, but it’s not eating in a restaurant either. There are a lot of markets around and all have good food options, but San Pedro has the most choice. It’s also one of the most hygienic, possibly due to the fact that so many visitors go there every day.
You’ll find a whole host of foods once inside like trout, beef with a fried egg and fried banana, ceviche, and some hearty soups. They are all amazing and it can be hard to choose which one to try.
There’s also a whole section of fresh juices made with a variety of fruits that you can opt for. And if you want something hot for breakfast you can find hot chocolate or coffee from the region with a nice range of sandwiches on offer. They really have everything here!
Arroz con Leche and Mazamorra
When the sun starts to set and it gets a little colder, you may want something comforting and warm to fill you a little. Another superb little snack or dessert that comes out at night is rice pudding with a purple corn thick jam-like substance. It may sound weird but the two go perfectly together.
It’s served piping hot and is a real treat. They come in various sizes so you can see how hungry you are and go for the right size. If you ever see ‘Arroz Zambito’ as an option I say go for it. It’s a brown rice pudding and, in my opinion, is the best flavor.
This is another mouth-wateringly tasty dessert. You usually get four on a plate, but sometimes it’s not enough! They are little donuts made out of sweet potato and are just heavenly. You’ll see them dotted about the streets away from the center, or can visit the little restaurant that sells them on Ruinas street.
How to Stay Safe When Eating on the Streets
You really need to try as many of these foods as possible when here, but you need to take a few safety measures. Eating street food anywhere in the world always poses some risks and can occasionally cause stomach bugs. To make sure you encounter as few problems as possible take note of the following;
- Always take note of the hygiene methods put in place by the vendor and if they themselves are well presented and clean.
- Never eat homemade mayonnaise. It’s good but can cause a bad case of salmonella.
- Check if other people are eating there or not. If you see the place has a queue of people then you’ll know it has to be a good one. A vendor with no one buying is not a good sign.
- Be careful with cutlery. Sometimes they may not have been washed well and the water may have been used a number of times. The best way to stay safe is to take some plastic cutlery in your backpack wherever you go. You could even take a plastic plate and cup if you want to be extra cautious.
Go Out and Enjoy the Taste of the Calle
You need to make the most of visiting a different country and city and try as much of the local cuisine as possible. You’re going to experience some new tastes, but I’m fairly certain you’ll like them all. I certainly do and often prefer eating outside to inside! So, go on. Go out and enjoy Peruvian street food.
Written by: Liv Palmer
Featured photo: @luisadorr