As in most of the Western world, the Peruvians like to sit down with their family and enjoy a feast. It is a little different, though, as many like to stay up till midnight on Christmas Eve and have their dinner then. A lot is also moving to the more traditional lunchtime meal on the 25th.
Whenever they eat it, they go all out. If you’re going to spending the festive season in Peru or are just curious as to what you might find on the dinner table at Christmas, we’ve collected a few of the more common options to give you an insight. So, sit back and let your taste buds start to tingle!
Just like a lot of us, the Peruvians enjoy a good turkey at Christmas. They don’t prepare it quite like we do, though. It will be made in the oven and can often contain a minced meat stuffing, but what’s really different is the spices. The folk here love to use a lot of flavoring in their foods, and the turkey is no exception.
You can expect to find a big piece on your plate, bone and all. They also don’t prepare a traditional gravy like the rest of us, but may well eat it with a chilli sauce and plenty of tasty side dishes that we’ll go on to mention.
You rarely get a meal here that doesn’t have a potato on it. Peru has more varieties than anywhere in the world and their Christmas dinner would be lost without them. They will usually boil them or roast them to accompany the big bird.
There’s no one type of potato they use, so it could be one of the thousands of varieties or even a mix of a few. Sweet potato is a big favorite here, too, so that may well be on your plate.
Another staple of many meals here, rice often makes an appearance at Christmas dinner. It’s unlikely to be plain white rice, though. They make all kinds of versions of festive rice that can contain raisins, walnuts, apples, and anything else you fancy. It actually goes really well with the turkey and can spice up your meal in a way you never imagined.
They don’t tend to go for the boiled vegetables that many other countries do. They prefer sweet and savory salads to balance all the heavy potatoes and well-condimented bird. Again, you’ll find a lot of apples, raisins, and other sweet tastes mixed in with salad veggies.
They don’t all love turkey, however, so many families like to roast a whole pig. This meal is called Lechon and is often eaten at New Year, but can also be eaten at Christmas time. Just like you and me, they can get tired of turkey and fancy a change.
This dish is most commonly served with tamales and potatoes. The savory pig with a sweet tamale is one of the best combinations you’ll try. Make sure you get a piece with a hefty serving of crispy skin to tall it all off.
Caldo de Gallina
This is a very hearty and delicious broth that almost all Peruvians absolutely love. The broth tends to contain a big chunk of organic chicken, potatoes, yucca, carrots, rice, and sometimes a few other extras.
This option is one that more tends to go for if they’re going to be eating at midnight. After all, it’s hard to imagine eating a big turkey dinner in the middle of the night!
Pollo a la Brasa
Many of us also like to eat out on Christmas day, and it’s no different here. The Peruvian favorite of rotisserie chicken (Pollo a la Brasa) is something that many like to treat themselves to at the festive time of year, too.
If you’re in the country you will find plenty of these restaurants in every town and city, so you won’t find it tough to try this local favorite.
Paneton and Hot Chocolate
Every country has its favorite Christmas sweet treat. Whether it be yule log or Christmas pudding, it’s not December 25th without it. Well, here we love to get stuck into paneton. Not just on the day itself either. They enjoy it throughout December and even sometimes at other times during the year.
It’s a big fruit cake that they really enjoy with a mug of homemade hot chocolate. Peru has some of the best chocolate in the world, so you can just imagine how amazing that tastes! They go really well together, and do an excellent job of helping you wait for your main course at midnight!
A Time to Enjoy with Your Nearest and Dearest
So, as for us all, Christmas in Peru is a time to spend with those that you are closest to, whether it be friends or family. Make sure you try as many of the festive foods as possible and have a great time. If you are celebrating with locals, you can see if they are also willing to give a few of your Christmas foods or traditions a try. It will be a great experience for them too. So ‘Feliz Navidad’, and have a wonderful experience!
Written by: Liv Palmer
Featured photo: Diario El Correo