Do you agree that trying local food is part of any traveling experience? If you do, in the following lines, I will tell you about the tastes you should not miss in the Andean city of Cusco! Starting with traditional goods consumed since pre-colonial times to recent innovative creations made with local ingredients, this will be a journey full of Peruvian flavors in Cusco!
Coca leaves are traditionally consumed in the Andean region, from pre-colonial times to our days. As a tourist in this region, you might need them to help you overcome the altitude sickness - a distressing sensation caused by the lack of air. Drinking coca tea is a good way to start the day because it is a mild stimulant, just as black tea or coffee.
As a stimulant, coca is widely consumed by locals while doing demanding physical tasks. The traditional way to use it is to form a small ball of leaves, called “acullico”, and place it between the cheek and jaw, leaving it there for a long period, while its compounds get dissolved in the mouth.
Though, trying coca leaves the traditional way is not for everyone because they have a strong characteristic smell and taste. However, nowadays, you will find coca leaves incorporated in several products (as you will learn in the following lines) making them more consumable by those not used to their strong flavor. One thing is sure, after trying them you will feel energized for the day!
It is always the right time to try the local chocolate in Chocomuseo! In this small and charming museum, the hospitable facilitators will teach you about the cacao produced in Peru and the process that transforms it into chocolate. You will even observe part of it!
Here, you can buy Peruvian chocolate mixed with a wide variety of ingredients - including coca and other local options. You will also find derived products such as cacao liqueurs or even cacao cosmetics.
But definitely, the most striking experience of Chocomuseo is to make your own chocolate with Peruvian cacao, choosing your own ingredients to combine it with! It will add your personal touch!
Are you more into traditional or gourmet meals? Well, when in Cusco, you should definitely try both of them!
Peru has a wide variety of traditional meals. In Cusco, specifically, there are nice options as quinoa soup (for the cold days), "rocoto relleno" (mildly spicy) or "kepchi de seats" (for vegetarians). But if you seek the strangest things you can get in each place, go for one of the most popular dishes of this area of the country - "cuy", a seasoned guinea pig, served entire, either fried or baked. Nuna Raymi, a restaurant that works closely with local producers, is a great option to try regional food - including vegan and vegetarian alternatives.
On the other hand, the gourmet experience is an interesting choice because Cusco has excellent options where regional ingredients are incorporated into dishes letting you discover local flavors in preparations that look like pieces of art. I recommend Yaku, as one of the best options for gourmet food in Cusco.
To finish the day, the national drink of Peru called "pisco" is a must! It is a distillate of grape, original to the Peruvian province of Pisco. A great way to try it (if not pure) is in the form of a cocktail, called "pisco sour". It consists of "pisco" with lemon juice, sweet syrup, egg white and Angostura bitters - which is a concentrate of herbs and spices. Alternatively, you can enjoy some cocktail varieties derived from "pisco sour" - "maracuja sour" (with a tropical touch), "chicha sour" (with purple corn), "coca sour" (coca is everywhere) or "sour de ají" (a spicy drink).
After a sensory discovery, without even realizing, you will learn lots of interesting aspects of the regional culture through a journey of Peruvian flavors in Cusco, adding a lot of value to your local experience!
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